University of California, Davis: Chatting from Cape Verde

Chancellor Gary S. May’s guest on this month’s edition of Face to Face spent six weeks learning at UC Davis without ever setting foot on campus.

Claudia Duarte Silva Gomes, a medical doctor and director of a regional hospital in the African archipelago nation of Cape Verde, spoke to May remotely during her time as a Mandela Washington Fellow last summer.

Purple graphic with text “Face to Face with Chancellor May”
“During the six weeks, I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “I really did not know that it would be this amazing experience, even if it was virtually.”

She was one of 30 young African leaders from 20 countries who participated in the most recent Mandela Washington Fellowship, the fifth cohort of the program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Young African Leaders Initiative and hosted by UC Davis. They spent time learning about public management.

During the fellowship, Silva Gomes said, she learned both from UC Davis faculty members and the other people in her cohort.

“And it’s been simply amazing,” she said. “I think in these past six weeks I’ve grown. I grew as a leader. And, of course, this is going to help me implement projects — and actually trying to make a real impact in my field.”

She was originally accepted to the 2019 fellowship, but deferred for a year. The 2020 program was postponed, and was held virtually starting in June 2021. She spoke to May in July from her home nation, and the two discussed future travel plans, career goals, what they had been reading recently and the medical advances Silva Gomes is most looking forward to. She then asked the chancellor what advice he would give the young leaders in her cohort and elsewhere.

“I always tell aspiring leaders that you have to make an impact locally before you can make a national or a global impact,” May said. “So I’d say first, focus on what you can do to improve your local community, and use that as a springboard to evolve into other activities that can improve the nation and the continent.”

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