John Doggett is a senior lecturer at the McCombs School of Business and has spent three summers teaching participants of the Mandela Washington Fellowship as its academic director. The highly competitive fellowship offers young African leaders the opportunity to enroll in an intensive business and entrepreneurship institute, coordinated by the International Office. In this reflection, Doggett wrote about his love for the Mandela Fellows, how they have impacted him personally and why he continues to be involved in this program.
Four years ago, the International Office asked me to be the academic director of UT’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Business and Entrepreneurship Institute. I said yes immediately, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
In 1983, I created an international management consulting firm that worked with clients in 25 countries around the world. Five of those countries were in Africa. We even opened an office in Accra, Ghana in 1992. So when the International Office asked if I could help, I was excited to continue the work I had done in the continent.
I have been deeply moved by the intelligence, entrepreneurial spirit and depth of character possessed by the Mandela Fellows. These young women and men really want to learn. They understand that their generation has the responsibility to turn Africa into a middle-income continent during their lifetimes.
I have now finished my third summer with the Mandela Fellows. I have pushed them as hard as possible during their time in Austin because the challenges they face are monumental. And they have responded to the pressure with excitement, discipline and love. They love the fact that I deeply believe in them and in Africa, and I love them for who they are.
I am a teacher first and a researcher second. It is such a joy to work with young adults with such a thirst for learning. It is so exciting to see them start applying what they have learned, even while they are still in Austin.
I have been blessed that we have become an extended family. They are the children my wife and I were not able to have, and in several cases, I am the father they did not have.
I have stayed in touch with many of the Fellows from each cohort. We Skype, email and talk about their lives – and their businesses. Some of them have even come back to visit us in Austin. In 2019, I plan to go to Southern Africa to visit with as many of the Fellows as possible. My wife and I are looking forward to it.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not say how much I appreciate the great work of my friends in the International Office. Together, we have created the best Mandela Fellows program in the nation. I have been at UT since 1989, and I have been truly blessed to work with an amazing group of women and men who make the International Office the best UT has to offer.
Written By John N. Doggett, JD, MBA
Senior Lecturer, McCombs School of Business
Academic Director, Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders
Fellow, Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs
Senior Research Fellow, IC2 Institute