From 2013 to 2014, a faculty member and alumnus from the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) in the Sanford School of Public Policy have actively participated in the DeBoer Fellowship program, an annual program that aims to “help promising Myanmar citizen leaders to reach their potential and better serve their organizations, communities and country.”

Rosemary Fernholz, senior research scholar at DCID, has assisted in an advisory capacity since early 2013, when she organized a brainstorming meeting at Duke on the proposed fellowship program. During the succeeding months, Aung Thant (pictured right), then a fellow in the Master of International Development Policy program (MIDP), also became actively involved. This small team has continued its advisory role and both have been invited to join the DeBoer Fellowship Advisory Council.

The fellowship program is a key focus of the DeBoer Foundation, Inc., reflecting a long-term commitment of its founders to benefit people in Myanmar, according to foundation president and 1982 Duke alumnus Fritz Kling.

“The Sanford School has played a central role in helping the fellowship launch, during this historic time in Myanmar’s history,” Kling said. “The brainstorming session of Duke professors provided inspiration, challenge and direction at a critical point of our development.  The backing of Professor Fernholz and Aung Thant has helped us build a program that is truly world class.”

The fellowship is a selective program which provides instruction, coaching and networking over a one-year period of time, highlighted by three one-week seminar events. For this first year, there are 31 DeBoer Fellows from all over Myanmar. Although most are from civil society organizations, there are also fellows from business, education and religious organizations.

The first seminar program started in 2014 and recruitment has started for the 2015 cohort. In January, Thant participated in the first training event of the 2014 fellowship in Mandalay, both as a mentor and as an advisor assisting in program direction and feedback on local context. In May, Fernholz and Thant traveled to Myanmar, where, in the second event of the seminar, Fernholz was an instructor on Strategic Planning and Implementation Challenges.

“We admire the initiative and foresight of the DeBoer Foundation in this significant initiative in Myanmar to help in development through providing training and support to potential citizen leaders, and we are very happy to interact with and support the DeBoer fellows,” Fernholz said.

Since his graduation in May 2014, Thant has returned to Myanmar, where he is still actively involved in the DeBoer Fellowship. Thant, a citizen of Myanmar, earned his master’s degree in international development policy as a Fulbright Fellow at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. A medical doctor, in 2007 he earned his bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery from the University of Medicine in Mandalay, Myanmar.

Thant began his professional career with CARE International in Myanmar in 2009 and has extensive experience serving in a variety of capacities until 2012. Prior to his studies at Duke, he was assistant program coordinator at CARE, introducing innovative strategies to strengthen the community health structure in remote areas. He has specialized in HIV-related projects intended to serve marginalized populations and has worked tirelessly to better Myanmar through public health.

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