History Major Receives Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship

Vice President Kamala Harris congratulates Niki Joshi via Zoom
Niki Joshi
Anticipated graduation: 2023
Academic program: BA, History and English
Hometown: Overland Park, Kansas

Niki Joshi (BA ’23) received the 2021 Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship, a competitive award for diverse student leaders to attend a four-week summer study abroad program focused on leadership, intercultural communication and social justice. Joshi will study in Ireland this summer with 13 other fellows from across the United States.

Joshi, a UMKC Trustees' Scholar, was hopeful that she’d receive the scholarship, but she knew the selection process was highly competitive.

“I knew hundreds of other intelligent and accomplished students were applying and that the competition would be stiff,” she says. “So, receiving the congratulatory phone call was an unexpected and wonderful surprise. I still don’t think the news has really sunk in.”

Joshi met the other fellows in her cohort in a congratulatory Zoom meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris, Ambassador Daniel Mullhall, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Nettie Washington Douglass, chairwoman and co-founder of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, Frederick Douglass’s great-great-granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington.

“Vice President Harris and Taoiseach Martin were so kind, genuine, supportive and encouraging,” Joshi says. “I left the meeting feeling like I could do anything.”

She was grateful, too, to have the time to hear Nettie Washington Douglass speak about Frederick Douglass’s time in Ireland.

“It’s fitting that this diverse group of young people will have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills in a place so special to Frederick Douglass,” Douglass said. “The welcome and respect with which Frederick was greeted across his tour of Ireland affected him profoundly. I can think of no better place for future American leaders to gain a global perspective and prepare to be agents of change.”

“Vice President Harris and Taoiseach Martin were so kind, genuine, supportive, and encouraging. I left the meeting feeling like I could do anything.” – Niki Joshi

“It was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the emotional significance and impact that Douglass’s time in Ireland had on his personal development and activism,” Joshi says.  “I’m deeply humbled and honored to have this chance to follow his journey and walk in his footsteps.”

Joshi had planned to study abroad in Scotland with professors and students from the Honors College last summer, but her plans were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While she took the cancellation in stride, she was aware of what she was missing.

“I think studying abroad grants a greater sense of clarity and independence,” Joshi says. “But most importantly, I think the experience allows students to test their personal limits by learning how to navigate social and cultural divides through exposure to different languages, values, practices, or traditions. It allows students to return with new knowledge and experiences that prepare them for an increasingly globalized world.”

“UMKC’s International Affairs team was delighted to find out one of our students received this prestigious, competitive honor,” says Kate Wozniak, assistant director of UMKC study abroad and exchange. “Niki was chosen from over 500 stellar applicants. The fact that she will be part of the fifth cohort of Frederick Douglass Global Fellows is astounding.”

Wozniak believes the program will be intense and transformational for Joshi.

“The four-week summer fellowship program in Dublin will focus on leadership, intercultural communication and social justice,” she says. “We fully expect Niki to return as an even stronger advocate for students of color as well as for international education.”

During the announcement Vice President Harris shared her perspective on one of the values of the experience of studying abroad.

“Like Frederick Douglass in Ireland, you can come as you are and you can leave who you aspire to be.”

Joshi’s expectations for the experience are clear.

“I aspire to be someone who feels comfortable with the unknown and wholly self-assured despite not knowing what will come next.”