Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI): Academic Fellows: Global Environmental Issues


Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI)

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is a U.S. Department of State-sponsored program that seeks to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia by engaging promising young leaders on critical topics in the region. Under the Mansfield Center's umbrella, the University of Montana and the East-West Center bring 42 Southeast Asian young leaders ages 18-25 to the United States each fall and spring to for an Academic Fellowship on Environmental Issues.

Twenty-one of these Fellows travel to Montana to explore the role of environmental policy and environmental issues in the context of a globalized society; engage with local partners involved in environmental activism; and develop, refine, and demonstrate leadership within ASEAN to support Fellows’ ongoing work. Through academic and field-based learning, Fellows gain a well-rounded understanding of environmental issues in Montana and the U.S.

After engaging with these topics at UM, Fellows then travel to Louisiana to develop their understanding of environmental issues in a different geographic region. Fellows conclude their program in Washington D.C. where they learn about the federal government’s role in environmental issues and meet with international non-profit and advocacy organizations. Once home, Fellows implement projects designed and workshopped during the program to address environmental problems in the region.

Community Involvement

Community and UM student engagement is a highlight of the experience for YSEALI Fellows and supports an important program goal to create opportunities for cross-cultural interaction and international friendships in Montana.

Community members may participate in this program as weekend homestay host families. This rewarding two-way exchange allows hosts to learn about other cultures while sharing what they love about Montana with their guests. Past activities include attending local community events, cooking meals for one another, visiting neighboring towns, and engaging in local recreation like hiking, fishing, and swimming.

Undergraduate students may participate as a UM Student Cultural Partner where they are responsible for participating in leadership and cultural activities to help YSEALI Fellows integrate into the UM and Missoula communities. This means sharing slices of daily life and what makes Missoula special to you – hike the M, visit the farmer’s market, hang out with friends, etc.

Graduate students can apply to work as graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). In this paid position, GTAs assist the Academic Director in guiding program participants to academic and cultural sessions as well as helping Fellows develop their community project proposals. This is a great opportunity for those interested in developing field-based teaching skills, learning about Southeast Asia, and helping interpret U.S. and Montana culture.

Through The Eyes of YSEALI

Learn more by reading posts from Fellows on the YSEALI on Environmental Issues program blog.