Senegal partners

by Amy Olson

An agreement between the University and the government of Senegal could have Senegalese scientists studying at the University just in time for the semester conversion.
University officials reached an agreement with the government of Senegal in July to develop a joint graduate education program called Le SÇnÇgal Agricole, allowing students from Senegal to get advanced training at the University with agricultural and environmental scientists.
The program, which is modeled after a 30-year program with Morocco, will also assist Senegal in creating a program for rural economic development. The research of the Moroccan program’s 370 graduates has helped the country develop.
Three Senegalese government officials, including Ambassador Mamadou Mansour Seck and first counsel Seynabou Diop Ly, will leave today after a five-day visit.
Secretary-General Fode Seck of Senegal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said he came to Minnesota with an invitation from Abdou Diouf, Senegal’s president, for University President Mark Yudof and the deans of the College of Natural Resources and the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences to visit.
John Vreyens, training coordinator in the University’s International Agriculture Program, said he and other University officials hope to visit Senegal during the country’s second national agriculture day on Feb. 14.
But Fode Seck, who is second in command of the country’s foreign ministry — the equivalent of a deputy secretary of state — said his government would welcome the University entourage much sooner.
“We are ready to receive him even today,” Fode Seck said.
Senegalese students would study both sciences and humanities at the University. After earning a master’s or doctorate degree, the students would return to Senegal to teach others while conducting research at the same time.
University professor Ronald McCurdy, who is chairman of the Afro-American and African studies department, said his department will be involved to provide an interdisciplinary approach.
“Madam Ly told us culture is the DNA of her people,” McCurdy said.
In addition to teaching Senegalese students at the University, the plans include exchanges between University faculty, who would go to Senegal to advise scientists. Fode Seck said he hopes to draw on the experience of the University’s professors in agriculture, who are known the world over for their expertise.
“We want to borrow from that experience,” Fode Seck said.
The official talks began in March when Senegalese officials invited University administrators to visit. The agreement was signed on July 10, and Yudof announced the University’s two colleges would contribute $100,000 to fund masters-level assistanceships for five Senegalese students.
Steve Clarke, director of the International Agriculture Program, said the Senegalese government officials are hoping to receive funding from the World Bank; the University will help Senegal write the proposal requesting funding.