Volunteer Profile: Daphne Wales, Mapping Academic and Professional Pathways for Afghanistan's Fu

Daphne Wales (center) and members of the Classes of 2017 - 2021 say farewell after Leadership Academy

Advisory Board member, New Student Orientation program teacher and host, Leadership Academy architect and faculty member, and friend to everyone at The Initiative, Daphne Bui Wales brings to our community nearly 20 years of experience creating proposals and content for programs that teach people how to reach their fullest potential through new leadership approaches to their own lives and the lives of others.

As a faculty member of The Initiative’s Leadership Academy, Daphne provides workshops on Academic and Professional Roadmaps, Internships and Mentorship, which help our students understand and realize their central role in the success of The Initiative’s mission.

We caught up with Daphne recently during her busy schedule as university professor, yoga instructor and Kingian nonviolence trainer to ask her a few questions about her volunteer work at The Initiative.

Q: Thank you so much for taking time to chat about The Initiative today! Can you describe how you learned about The Initiative and how you first became involved?

A: I first learned and became involved with The Initiative when I was teaching an upper level communication course at the University of Rhode Island approximately 5 years ago. The course was part of a cutting edge series of courses that center around real world learning, as such mine was a professional partnership with The Initiative. I created a classroom communication company through which we produced content for The Initiative within the areas of Media Relations, Organizational Development including preliminary work to create an Alumni Association and an Online Store along with Public Relations campaigns such as the “I Am Not Afraid” campaign and Event Planning projects that culminated with a university wide Exhibition.

The students and I had the tremendous opportunity to work closely with Christian and other members of The Initiative community – Marti Boone, Christopher Johnson, Kathleen Van Gorden, Qais Akbar Omar, Rosalind Rustigian, Mary Goodman and others. Students, parents and various members of the university community acknowledged the depth and significant positive impact this course had in essential developmental ways academically, personally and globally.

I strongly believe this course, co-created with Christian, is a model that can be used to develop programs that link organizations, institutions and key players in communities to create change through not only awareness but the fusion of best practices that bridge cultural, generational, economic and geographical divides.

Q: You invest a lot of your professional expertise and personal experience in developing our Leadership Academy curriculum and Summer Internship in Afghanistan program. Tell us about the outcomes you hope to achieve through those programs.

A: First, I have to say it has been absolutely amazing to be part of the tremendous growth I have witnessed with The Initiative over these past several years. The Leadership Academy has become a basis from which to educate and train students to prepare them in substantive and practical ways to learn and integrate what it means to be a leader. You know it is easy to say we are going to train you to become a leader. Numerous books and programs exist that claim the same. I can honestly say with out reservation that the unique program that The Leadership Academy provides allows students the opportunity to study, learn and internalize what it means to be a strong effective leader. How can one become an effective leader without learning to practice leadership in their lives?

The strength of the program springs from the truly innovative design necessitated by the unique challenge presented by all of the individual challenges present for the Afghan students and the commitment of The Initiative to meet those challenges. Christian your work to this end has been nothing short of heroic, truly! I have seen and experienced how the countless hours of design, each year building on the last to build a strong community of like-minded professionals seeking to create lasting change in Afghanistan has birthed into an academy that fuses some of the brightest minds in leadership, communications and cultural awareness through such people as Dr. Phyllis Magrab, Ellen Kagen, Marti Boone, Nadia Sakhi, Tanya Kalmanovitch, and Robin Ryczek and others. In addition, the support of His Excellency Ambassador Hambdullah Mohib and his wife, Lael Mohib, has been extraordinary.

The outcomes I hope and believe we are achieving are to fully prepare the students for the myriad challenges they will face within the program and long after in their mother land. I believe it is essential to position them to take best advantage of everything The Initiative has to offer while they are in the program, in order to succeed once they complete the program. To that end the Summer Internship in Afghanistan Program is a critical component, which enables them to practice what they learn in the leadership academy so they can apply and further enhance those very leadership skills each summer in their home country.

Q: You have spent a lot of time with our students in the classroom and in your home. What are some of the things you love best about our students?

A: I absolutely love the expressed commitment they have to excel. Their quest for knowledge is palpable and I have enjoyed numerous conversations that have provided me a window through which to see the beauty of their families, mother land and lives. I feel honored to have the opportunity to learn from them, to share in our journey as women to create a more peaceful equitable world. I have truly enjoyed the laughter, the comraderie they experience with each other especially at Leadership Academy. Connecting with sisters, by blood, by nation builds hope and love. I am truly grateful to each and every one of them for what they have given to me. The Initiative and all of the students hold a very tender place in my heart.

Q: You have been an integral part of developing The Initiative’s new Professional Development program also. From your perspective, how will this program support our mission?

A: The new Professional Development program is to me a natural outgrowth of the past several years’ successes and honest evaluation of The Initiative’s ability to support its mission to create lasting positive change in Afghanistan. An organization can only survive and grow if it is dynamic and able to adapt to its environment, just like us as humans. Identifying an area, a segment within Afghanistan that might provide an avenue to create lasting change for women and thus the country is evident in the Professional Development program. And, because of all the work done creating a substantive, measurable, successful Leadership Academy along with the Internship program I believe the Initiative has prepared itself to succeed in this new endeavor. The programs feed into each other and significantly deepen the ability of the Initiative to meet its mission. I am absolutely delighted, confident in it’s anticipated success and committed more than ever to work towards that end.

Thank you, Daphne, for all of your tireless work. It has been an inspiration to me and the students as you challenge us to continue to develop ourselves, each other and reach to manifest the mission of the Initiative with integrity and grace!

"[The Initiative students'] quest for knowledge is palpable and I have enjoyed numerous conversations that have provided me a window through which to see the beauty of their families, mother land and lives. I feel honored to have the opportunity to learn from them, to share in our journey as women to create a more peaceful equitable world."

- Daphne Wales

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