University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Vermont to Senegal

Veteran professor returns to help his homeland

Coast of Senegal
Photograph by Irene Abdou


Vermont to Senegal

Veteran professor returns to help his homeland

Moustapha Diouf, associate professor of sociology, has long wanted to help improve the quality of life in his native Senegal. He will get the chance as the recently appointed special adviser to the prime minister of Senegal and president of the Millenium Challenge Account (MCA)—a $540 million foreign development project funded by the United States.

Diouf, who became friends with the new Prime Minister Aminata Toure while working on a master’s degree in rural sociology at the University of Paris in the early 1980s, had turned down previous job offers from Senegal officials, holding out for an opportunity promising greater impact on the economic development of the West African country. The addition of the powerful MCA position was exactly what he had in mind.

“The prime minister and I have shared the same dream for many years and are now in a position to realize that dream together,” says Diouf.

Diouf, who expects to return to UVM in about two years, says he envisions using the MCA funds for infrastructure improvements with a focus on the building of roads and bridges so people can bring goods to market. He also hopes to improve health care, education, and telecommunications access while keeping a close eye on the management of the funds. “There is great demand for social justice in Senegal,” Diouf says. “Many African countries are fighting corruption and the mismanagement of public funds. They really have to monitor how money is being spent. I will work on bringing transparency, accountability, and checks and balances to the process.”

In addition to his academic research as a rural sociologist, Diouf brings experience from past fieldwork with development and literacy projects via the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

“UVM has given me everything for the past twenty-four years,” says Diouf. “It is my affiliation with the university that allowed me to get this appointment. I intend to give back by sharing my experience with students and colleagues and converting my experiences into reality. Otherwise, it’s just abstract theorizing. As a political sociologist, what we teach in the classroom should translate into the field. We all dream of having an impact on social policy, so I’m feeling very fortunate to be in a position to do so.”

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