2018 Southeast Asian Leaders Institute

Dr. Lance Askildson gives the YSEALI  Fellows a Welcome Speech at orientation.

The Kennesaw State University (KSU) Division of Global Affairs (DGA) welcomed its third and final cohort of Young Southeast Asian Leaders Institute (YSEALI) on Thursday, February 4 and will host them through the month of February.

YSEALI is the U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia. Through a variety of programs and engagements, including U.S. educational and cultural exchanges, regional exchanges, and seed funding, YSEALI seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youth in the region, strengthen ties between the U.S. and Southeast Asia, and nurture an ASEAN community. 

 The YSEALI Academic Fellows Program brings undergraduates or recently graduated students between the ages of 18 and 25 to the U.S. for a five-week institute held on the campus of a U.S. college or university. Each five-week institute covers a YSEALI theme, which include civic engagement, environment and natural resources management, and entrepreneurship and economic development.

 This five-week, intensive program consists of a four-week academic residency on KSU’s campus examining civil and human rights through the lens of the U.S. civil rights movement, and a one-week educational study tour examining present-day international civil and human rights issues including immigration issues, diversity and inclusion, women’s rights, and LGBTIQ issues.

 This year, DGA will host 21 leaders from countries including the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam. The group kicked off the program with orientation on Thursday followed by a welcome reception where the KSU community had the opportunity meet and engage in conversation with the young leaders.

 Matthew Hunnicutt, a second year Business Management major, attended the event on Thursday. He said it was intimidating in a good way to be able to interact with the best of the best from each respective country who are doing amazing things.

Hannicut pictured with a few of the YSEALI fellows. 

 “I think it’s important as students and Americans to embrace a globalized culture not only to teach others about the U.S. but also so we can learn from them. I believe that dialogue makes everyone stronger,” said Hunnicutt.

 This weekend, the group traveled to Selma and Birmingham, Alabama to learn about the American Civil Rights Movement. On Saturday, the fellows visited the Selma Civil Rights Museum, took a Pettus Bridge guided tour and ate lunch at a historic Selma restaurant. They rounded the day off with a Selma Civil Rights Walking tour and a trip to the Voting Rights Museum.

Sunday the fellows went to Birmingham where they attended an educational church service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, ate lunch at the Historic 16th Street Baptist Church and Civil Rights Site, and participated in an educational program by U.S. Civil Rights Activists at 16th Street Baptist Church.

 “The whole journey puts your life into perspective and shows how much we take our civil rights for granted, especially given how many have sacrificed their lives for justice & equality,” said Farah Nabilah, one of this year’s fellows from Malaysia.

The fellows have an extensive schedule full of community service opportunities, lectures, guest speakers, and visits to local Atlanta staples including the International Civil and Human Rights Center, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, the CNN Center, and the Coca-Cola Factory. Other destinations on the agenda include Miami, Florida and Washington D.C.

Fellows will also develop and implement service projects for their home communities with faculty mentorship through a service project development program spanning pre- and post-Institute activities. This service project development program will culminate in the submission of project proposals and the award of project mini-grants during the Institute’s follow-on activities period.

Last, Fellows will have the opportunity to reunite at a Regional Symposium tentatively being planned in Singapore in May 2018. The Symposium, which will include KSU students and KSU’s Winter 2016 and 2017 Fellows, will focus on ASEAN challenges and opportunities, leadership and professional skills, and relationship-building and networking, in addition to featuring a keynote theme of environmental leadership in Southeast Asia. Fellows can anticipate the award of their project mini-grants at the Symposium.