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Appalachian receives $375,000 grant to implement South African Legislative Fellows Program

BOONE–Appalachian State University has received a $375,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to implement a two-year South African Legislative Fellows Program (LFP) designed to strengthen understanding of the U.S. legislative process and enhance appreciation of the role of civic society and its engagement in the political process.

Appalachian will implement the program in collaboration with Africa Governance Transformation (AGT), a non-governmental organization in South Africa.

The goals of LFP are to strengthen South Africa’s democracy, assist in the empowerment of mid-level government professionals, and enhance technical skills and institution-building capacity for South African legislative professionals.  The target groups are the National Parliament and the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Parliament, as well as local government professionals in the KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa.

The program will be directed by Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor for international education and development, and Dr. Marvin Hoffman, director of the master of public administration program in the department of government and justice studies.

“The purpose of the grant is to show how a strong, vibrant democracy works and how the sharing of powers occurs between our three levels of government,” Hoffman said. “We are honored Appalachian was chosen for this project.”

Young South African leaders between the ages of 25-35 from local, provincial and national legislative bodies will be selected to travel to the United States to participate in seminars and internships with a variety of government agencies and advocacy groups, including the U.S. Congress, N.C. General Assembly, and various county and municipal governments in North Carolina.  Participants will be placed in legislative and governmental units that correspond with the size of their governmental units in South Africa.

North Carolina local governments providing internship experiences for the South Africans include the High Country Council of Governments, Northwest Piedmont Council of Governments, Watauga County Government, Town of Boone, McDowell County Government, City of Winston-Salem and City of Kannapolis.  The South Africans also will have the opportunity to visit the North Carolina League of Cities.

The first group of South Africans will arrive at Appalachian in March 2010 with a second group participating in the program beginning in October 2010.

“This program builds on the strong reputation of Appalachian’s master of public administration program,” Hoffman said. Graduates of the MPA program serve as city, town or county managers in almost every county in North Carolina.

“We have hosted graduate students from Russia, Poland, Macedonia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and

Azerbaijan. We are excited at the prospect of showing the South Africans what N.C. communities and local government is like,” Hoffman said.

While in their internship, participants will stay with host families. “Appalachian will be seeking families interested in hosting South Africans in their homes for three weeks.  We are going to look for families in the Boone/Watauga area, Winston-Salem, Kannapolis, the Raleigh/Cary area and Marion,” said Lutabingwa.

The grant also will fund follow-up activities in South Africa, as well as alumni outreach and engagement activities.  During the last phase of the grant, a group of  U.S. professionals and mentors who will have worked with the South Africans in their internships will travel to South Africa for two weeks to conduct one-on-one consultation and assessment of the progress made in implementing new ideas learned in the United States.

Appalachian competed nationally for funding of the LFP project. Its proposal was one of a small number selected for funding.

“Appalachian’s selection is a recognition and confirmation by federal agencies of the university’s capability and expertise in implementing international development projects,” Lutabingwa said.

For more information, contact Lutabingwa in the Office of International Education and Development at 828-262-2046 or lutabingwajl@appstate.edu.

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