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In a challenging year, Humphrey Fellows focus on program goals

January 25, 2021

Nompumelelo Prudence Radebe caption

Nompumelelo Prudence Radebe was thrilled when she learned in February that she would spend a year at the Maxwell School as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow. Radebe, a director at the National Treasury of South Africa, has experienced a roller coaster of emotions since then.

“I went from anxious to excited to being nervous about whether the program would continue because of COVID,” she said. Anticipation mixed with panic as she learned in August she was expected in Syracuse by the end of November.

Her trip from South Africa was smooth despite rocky moments this year. “I was tested before flying,” she said. “The airports were not as packed as usual. Everything was fine.” She took a breath, adding, “Now we are here.”

Radebe and eight more Maxwell Humphrey Fellows started a compressed program Dec. 1. The program, typically 10 months beginning Aug. 1, will last six months this year.

Syracuse’s 2020-21 fellows hail from Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Tanzania and Togo. The midcareer professionals will engage in academic study, professional development and cultural exchange.

The fellows bring a variety interests and experience, including public finance, public policy, development, technology and health.

“We are thrilled to welcome the fellows to the Maxwell School and admire their determination and dedication in these challenging times,” said Margaret Lane, director of Syracuse University’s Humphrey Fellowship program. “They are focused on fulfilling their academic and professional goals.”

Online meetings in the fall focused on logistics and community building, and orientation continued online. Program directors will follow COVID-19 regulations and adapt Humphrey events as needed. Despite some uncertainty, fellows aim to maintain their professional goals.

“Just because we have lost time does not necessarily mean we have lost what we hoped to achieve,” Radebe said.

She has worked at South Africa’s treasury since a 2016 internship. As a public finance director she works on police budgets and resource allocation. She hopes her Humphrey experience will teach her to collect and use data to develop public policy. She also is interested in using technology to improve service delivery.

“I hope to leave this year a much better policy analyst than I was,” Radebe said. “Once you can collect the data and understand it, you can use it to improve government operations.”

She also wants to learn more about volunteerism, NGOs and fundraising.

“I will be able to learn the experiences of eight other countries in terms of policy and culture,” she said. “That in itself makes it a very meaningful experience for me.”

Maxwell’s fellows are among the year’s approximately 127 scholars from 81 countries. Syracuse University is one of 12 campuses across the country to host Humphrey Fellows. Approximately 135 fellows from 72 countries have called the Maxwell School and Syracuse University home during their fellowship year since 2009.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program began in 1978 to honor the late Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and his lifelong commitment to international cooperation and public service. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by the Institute of International Education.

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