In Hubert Humphrey's Name, International Fellows Program Celebrates 40 Years of Impact

In Hubert Humphrey's Name, International Fellows Program Celebrates 40 Years of Impact

The legacy of Hubert H. Humphrey is felt not only in the halls of the School that bears his name on the University of Minnesota campus; it reaches around the world through an international fellowship program that has brought thousands of mid-career professionals from developing nations to the United States for a year of study, professional experience, and cultural exchange.

The University’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs is one of 13 colleges and universities that host Humphrey Fellows each year. The program, entering its 40th year, is sponsored by the US State Department in honor of Hubert Humphrey’s commitment to global understanding.

This year’s cohort of 16 fellows from countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America just finished their 10-month stay at the Humphrey School, where they took part in personal and professional growth opportunities to prepare them for leadership roles in their home countries. They were recognized for their accomplishments at a graduation ceremony on April 24.

“For the fellows selected for this program, the experience is transformative,” says Pepe Wonosikou, who coordinates the fellowship program for the Humphrey School. “They are doing incredible things because of the connections they make in the program and because of their commitment to public service.”

Wonosikou points to the accomplishments of alumna Abosede Oyeleye, who focused on human rights during her fellowship at the Humphrey School in 2015–16. Oyeleye is executive director of the Children’s Emergency Relief Foundation (CERF) in Lagos, Nigeria. Wonosikou met with her in Nigeria this winter, and Oyeleye visited the Humphrey School during a recent trip to the United States.

Oyeleye established CERF in 2005, to support children who are at risk of abuse or trafficking due to war, poverty, and family conflict.

Oyeleye says the Humphrey Fellowship Program helped strengthen her skills in advocacy, community engagement, and collaboration, and she gained a better understanding of national and international policies related to child trafficking.

“We do a lot of training of local governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on how to support abused children and how to prevent abuse from happening,” she told a group of Humphrey students during her visit. “We hope to eventually institute this type of training for all of the school districts in Lagos State.”

Oyeleye is one of more than 100 Humphrey Fellowship alumni in Nigeria. Another high-profile alumnus is Akinwunmi Ambode, the governor of Lagos State, who spent his fellowship at Boston University in 1998–99.

"The Humphrey Fellowship Program afforded me insights into ways that leadership can be both effective and selfless. It equipped me with the various tools I needed, and deepened my resolve, to effect positive change everywhere I went, in every office I held, and with virtually everyone I know,” says Ambode. “That is the perspective I gained during my fellowship year, and it has become like a light that still burns brightly within me to this day."

During her trip to Nigeria, Wonosikou met with Humphrey Fellows alumni groups in different cities, and she notes the strong bond these participants have with each other.

“That’s part of the legacy of Hubert Humphrey,” she says. “This program brings together people from diverse backgrounds to work together for nearly a year. There’s a richness to those relationships that stays with them long after they return to their home countries. It’s the type of exchange that we need to promote more than ever.”

Planning is underway to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program beginning this fall. The International Fellowship Program, The Institute of International Education (IIE), and the State Department will hold events throughout the year in locations around the world to mark the occasion.


A long-time advocate of international cooperation and understanding, Hubert Humphrey served as vice president of the United States from 1965 to 1969 and for many years as a US Senator from Minnesota.

Just a few months after Humphrey died of cancer in 1978, President Jimmy Carter established the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program to honor Humphrey's exemplary leadership, his devotion to public service, and his hope for greater understanding among nations. In 1979, the first 24 Humphrey Fellows arrived in the United States. Over the last 40 years, more than 5,700 men and women from 162 countries have participated in the Humphrey Fellowship program.