Mansfield Center Associate Director Selected as Youth Mentor at White House Summit

November 13, 2015

MISSOULA – Deena Mansour, associate director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana, will travel to Malaysia next week to serve as a youth mentor at the White House Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Summit.

Launched in 2013, the initiative is President Barack Obama’s signature program to strengthen leadership development in Southeast Asia. Through a variety of programs, including educational and cultural exchanges based at UM, YSEALI embraces the power of individual citizens to find creative solutions to challenges they face in their home communities. YSEALI focuses on topics important to youth in both Montana and Asia, including civic engagement, environment and natural resources management, and entrepreneurship and economic development.

“It is truly an honor to be able to showcase Montana expertise and resources on the global stage of this summit,” Mansour said. “As a former U.S. diplomat, I know firsthand the importance of public diplomacy and the need to develop strong people-to-people relations in establishing global mutual understanding. Montana has proven to be an ideal location to develop such relationships because of the warmth and dedication of host families, fellowship partners, and program managers Kelsey Stamm, Mel Wardlow and Caitlin Sager.” 

UM’s Mansfield Center is the only organization in the country that hosts both components of YSEALI exchanges: academic exchanges for Fellows ages 18 to 24 and professional exchanges for Fellows ages 25 to 35. Earlier this month, the Mansfield Center hosted 10 Fellows from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam as part of the initiative.

“Mike Mansfield cherished opportunities to support global youth, especially his fellow Montanans,” Mansour said. “YSEALI allows us to continue Mansfield’s legacy by fostering an exchange of ideas between youth in areas critical to both regions, including energy, climate change and economic development, through the prism of leadership development. This exchange fits squarely within UM’s mission to provide a global education not only for our students, but also for the greater Montana community.”

Mansour has played a critical role in building the Mansfield Center’s partnership with YSEALI, and she credits UM faculty members for helping bolster its impact.

“The U.S. Department of State has consistently recognized UM and the Mansfield Center as centers of excellence in civic engagement and leadership,” she said. “Because of the expertise of our faculty, such as Len Broberg in environmental studies and Nicky Phear in the climate change program, our exchanges are renowned for their impact, effectiveness and sustainability.”

Mansour will head to Kuala Lumpur Wednesday through Tuesday, Nov. 18-24, for the summit. While there, she’ll lead a workshop of up to 100 young leaders on developing skills to foster civil society development and take part in a town hall meeting hosted by Obama. Mansour also will serve as a mentor to a smaller cohort of 10 participants selected from the larger group.  About 50 of the 500 total attendees are expected to be alumni of UM training programs.

For more information, email Mansour at

Contact: Deena Mansour, associate director, UM Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, 406-274-0992,