Syracuse University Magazine

Public Service Leadership with a Global Reach

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When Roxana Silva speaks of corruption in her home country of Ecuador, her passion is palpable. She tells of government officials absconding with public funds and the uneven application of law. She witnessed the desperation of indigenous farmers as official mismanagement and indifference delayed by 10 years completion of an irrigation channel needed for their crops. "It's very important for me to promote human rights and the capabilities of Ecuadorean people, to let them know their rights and exercise those rights," she says. "We have to teach people, train people, because they have a voice-and their voice needs to be heard by the authorities."

Silva is developing new tools and strategies for achieving that goal as one of 11 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows in a 10-month residency at the Maxwell School. The Humphrey Fellows Program, created in 1978 by the Carter administration, supports leadership development and networking opportunities for international professionals committed to public service. Syracuse is one of 17 universities selected by the U.S. State Department to host the 2009-10 Humphrey Fellows, and one of just three focusing on public administration and public affairs. Maxwell will serve as a host school for at least four years. "Hubert H. Humphrey was a statesman with an international agenda," says Margaret Lane, assistant director of Maxwell's Executive Education Program and program manager for the Humphrey Fellows at Maxwell. "So the essential vision of this program is to identify future leaders from around the globe, to promote deeper understanding of one another-us and them-and for them to develop the skills they need to promote positive change around the world." 

The fellows, who arrived at Maxwell last August, come from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, India, Israel, Liberia, Moldova, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Korea, and Tunisia. Each has a customized "plan" encompassing community service, optional courses, faculty mentoring, and work with organizations whose missions dovetail with the fellows' professional objectives. Silva has taken courses in managerial leadership and public policy, and picked up some citizen engagement strategies from FOCUS Greater Syracuse, ProLiteracy, and Syracuse Cultural Workers.

Several fellows cite Maxwell's interdisciplinary structure and the group's own diversity as particularly rewarding aspects of their experience. "The interaction with the other fellows here-it's not your usual neighborhood people that you meet," says Nimrod Pinhas Goren of Israel, founder of a nongovernmental organization that promotes the role of young people in shaping Israeli foreign relations. "Each person comes with an interesting background and experiences but similar challenges. Here, people influence each other, enrich each other. I've found that very useful."  

The benefits flow both ways. "This type of program really broadens our efforts at internationalizing the school," says Steve Lux G'96, director of Maxwell's Executive Education Program. "And it's a great challenge. Here you have 11 people who are very accomplished, who have done a lot of interesting things, and you have to show that Maxwell is relevant to them. Do our interdisciplinary efforts work for them? Are our institutes and centers relevant to the rest of the world?"

 Silva believes the answer is yes. "Maxwell is the best school of citizenship in the U.S., but I'm also trying to learn from organizations and people here," she says. "It's very important for me, so that I can ‘catch' ideas, experiences, and more information. The Ecuadorean people-we can change. But we need the knowledge and the methodologies. You have that in this country." —Carol Boll