Category: News, Student News

Title: Maputi Botlhole, GHD’20, Wins the Global Citizen Award

Date Published: May 8, 2020

“A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”
Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

Congratulations to Maputi Botlhole, who was awarded the Global Citizen Award. This award recognizes a graduate student at Georgetown who is in good academic standing, demonstrates significant and well-documented progress in developing intercultural competency and global-mindedness based on examples of on-campus engagement with the Georgetown community.

Maputi is a second-year student in the Global Human Development Program, from New Brighton, a South African Township. She is a Social Enterprise and Innovation Fellow and on the Social Innovation and Global Development track. Maputi is passionate about working at the intersection of technology, social innovation and human health. She is the President of Africa Forum at the School of Foreign Service and the Co-president of an on-campus organization known as NetImpact. She has done outreach, organized panels and raised funds for on-campus initiatives such as the 2020 Georgetown Africa Business Conference and the 2020 Georgetown Social Innovation Lab. Over the years, Maputi has worked with John Snow Inc., Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, National Institutes of Health, Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Havard- to mention a few. This is only a bird’s eye view of why Maputi is so deserving of this award.

What or who inspired you to work in this field and how do you stay motivated?

My father: Charles Molefe Botlhole. He was a shop steward at one of the pharmaceutical manufacturing plants in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He worked tirelessly to align the incentives of workers and management. He used corporate social responsibility as a vehicle for his employer at the time to introduce programs in education, health, financial literacy, etc. The programs that my father developed helped various communities and young people who attended under-resourced township schools, such as myself, to access extra-classes at private schools in town; my father’s co-workers who had chronic illnesses were able to visit doctors – some for the first time through the health insurance plans that were introduced; and his female colleagues took financial literacy programs that empowered them to receive compensation via bank account deposits as opposed to husbands picking up their payslips. My father got into trouble for the financial literacy programs, and the patriarchal system that is pervasive in most township households accused him of being a weak man. He stood firm in his convictions and maintained his stance in being a proud feminist to this day. 

It is my father’s work and influence that inspired me to work in this field, and I recall a childhood memory where I wished to one day own a factory that would employ people and also introduce robust corporate social responsibility programming. This is because I saw the positive impact of private sector involvement not only with job creation, but also in taking a human-centered approach towards community development in Port Elizabeth. My father’s heart for community development stretched beyond his work as a shop steward, he introduced a culture of recycling bottles from shebeens, cleaning up the streets with young people in New Brighton township and collecting donations from community members if someone had experienced a loss in his/her family or if there was a child that needed to pay for school fees, etc. He had and continues to have a heart for community development; I sometimes wonder what would’ve been of him if Apartheid hadn’t put restrictions on his potential as a young black man growing up in South Africa.

My parents, sister and mentor keep me focused and motivated. I am very fortunate to have a strong support network which consists of people who remind me about the importance of mindfulness, intentionality and inculcating a spirit of tenacity. My mentor: Leigh Morgan, is someone who embodies all that it means to be a global citizen. I have learned a great deal from her about empathy, the value of compassion and cross-cultural fluency. It is rare to find a mentor that fuels your curiosity and I am very fortunate to have her unconditional support. My mother: Lindeka Botlhole, a feisty Xhosa woman from the villages of the Eastern Cape. She has a determined spirit and introduced the value of education in my family – she gave me the tools to push past rejection and disappointments. Finally, my sister: Puleng Botlhole, who has taught me a great deal through her words of wisdom about spiritual alignment and discernment. I have learned a lot from her about the importance of having a purpose-filled vision for my life and the ability to operate from a place of rest. For the past two years, I have walked onto the Georgetown University campus with these individuals strengthening me on a daily basis. Their influence in my life has been apparent in how I have engaged within the Georgetown community with other students, faculty members and on various initiatives such as the Global Social Innovation Lab. I mention the GHD sponsored impact-design lab because it was disruptive and created an opportunity for students from different schools, degree levels and countries to work together on developing empathy and human-centered design approaches aimed at accelerating equity, diversity and inclusion in global development. It is the values that have been instilled in me by my support network which drew me to participate in initiatives such as the aforementioned. 

What does this award mean to you?

It was an incredible honor to receive the 2020 Georgetown Graduate Global Citizen Award. I believe that I am the first person from Port Elizabeth, South Africa to receive this award – so it is an honor and a privilege. I am humbled that Georgetown University recognized the great value brought to the institution by a young woman from Nelson Mandela Bay. It is also an honor to have received the award in this academic year of the Centennial Celebrations for the School of Foreign Service; celebrating a century of service and commitment to the global community. I recall the opening remarks of World Bank Group President David Malpass when he delivered the Lloyd George Centennial Lecture. He said “We’re not giving up on the idea that by breaking down barriers and giving everyone an opportunity to succeed, countries can build more open, safe and prosperous societies.” A great number of barriers had to be broken down in order for me to journey from the streets of New Brighton township to the hallways of Georgetown University. President David Malpass best captured the meaning of this award for me. (opens l Celebrations for the School of Foreign Service; celebrating a century of service and commitment to the global community. I recall the opening remarks of World Bank Group President David Malpass when he delivered the Lloyd George Centennial Lecture. He said “we’re not giving up on the idea that by breaking down barriers and giving everyone an opportunity to succeed, countries can build more open, safe and prosperous societies.” A great number of barriers had to be broken down in order for me to journey from the streets of New Brighton township to the hallways of Georgetown University. President David Malpass best captured the meaning of this award for me.

How would you use being the recipient of this award to influence others and how would it impact your career?

I hope that being the recipient of this award can symbolize the importance of a collaborative spirit and effective working across boundaries. I’ve had a transformative journey through my Georgetown experience and a linchpin to that has been relationship building with people from across the globe. For instance, I did my summer internship in Bangkok, Thailand where I received a highly spirited welcome from the Georgetown alumni chapter in Bangkok. There I was, a young woman from a South African township, getting treated to a welcome lunch at Lhong 1919: an impeccably preserved 19th century Chinese mansion located on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. I recall how the conversations from that welcome lunch ranged from sharing stories about my inter-tribal identity and childhood experiences in South Africa to an alumnus’ recollection of his time in Georgetown classes with King Felipe VI (SFS’95) of Spain. These are the kinds of intergenerational HOYA interactions that help to build cross-cultural fluency, resourcefulness and mentorship networks that transcend borders. As a South African, I can now confidently claim to have a community of supportive people in Thailand, Singapore, other parts of Southeast Asia and I look forward to discovering the global stretch of the Georgetown HOYA network!

How do you think GHD has helped/will help you with your career?

I learned about GHD when I was at John Snow Inc. as a Program Officer on the USAID | DELIVER project. My curiosity led me to ask a coworker to connect me to a LinkedIn contact that he had; a contact that was a student in the GHD program at that time. It is from that connection that I found myself talking to Elizabeth Powell about what it means to “creatively solve some of the pressing challenges in the world.” I had no idea that in 2020 I would be graduating from this program. I look back at my application and remember the nervousness, doubt and insecurity that I felt about my application. The doubt was largely due to the fact that a guidance counselor had once told me that I didn’t “fit the profile of a Georgetown student, and that the school wouldn’t admit a person from the townships.” I didn’t realize how much that statement had affected me until it was time to proceed with the application. I had finished assembling my application packet but waited until the last minute to finally click the submit icon. I pushed through and months later I received a congratulatory email from Prof.Radelet. Wow! I couldn’t believe it! I was authentic in my application and got accepted, hence from that moment I decided that I would bring forth my true self to the GHD program. I learned about Dean Carol Lancaster’s vision for GHD and finally found a sense of “I belong here.” As a result, I have been very intentional about my GHD experience and used the program as a vehicle to connect to my immediate and long-term goals. I laugh whenever I re-read my application to the program because I realize that I have been able to achieve most of the goals that I stated. I met social enterprise extraordinaires such as Mechai Viravaidya and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus. I got an exclusive tour of a manufacturing plant from one of the largest suppliers on the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program – this reinvigorated my childhood dream and I could see it, touch it, taste it, smell it and feel it.

My GHD advisor: Prof.Holly Wise, taught me great courses on global social enterprise, social innovation and innovation in private sector approaches to international development. The courses offered under the Social Innovation and Global Development certificate connected me to on-campus resources at the MakerHub, Gelardin New Media Center and the Ethics Lab, where I could do things such as empathy mapping through virtual reality or access top-notch video/podcast equipment or take workshops on 3D modelling and printing. Prof.Holly Wise encouraged me and many of her students to continue to network, to get involved in cross campus initiatives and to utilize GHD’s flexibility to take courses in other schools and programs such as the McDonough School of Business; Culture, Communications and Technology program and the Global Health program. I really came to appreciate this flexibility because it made my experience truly interdisciplinary to the extent that I got a chance to work on projects ranging from sustainability models for peer-to-peer economies; emerging technologies for health systems strengthening; and social finance strategies for start-ups in emerging markets. GHD has equipped me with the latest technology tools and interdisciplinary skills necessary to confidently enter the next chapter of my life. I know it won’t be smooth sailing but I have a solid foundation, reliable relationship networks, a great tool box and a determined spirit!