Payson Center Provides Intellectual "Sandwich"

July 29, 2002

Nick Marinello

Abdoulaye Diedhiou has two words for his present stay in the United States: "It's good!" Diedhiou is one of 15 students from Senegal visiting the Tulane campus this summer with the goal of becoming better qualified to lead the development of their home country.

The Senegalese students are enrolled in a doctoral program created by the Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer. All hold positions on the faculty of the University of Dakar and all but one are physicians.

"This is an exciting group of people," says Eamon Kelly, senior academic officer of the Payson Center. "They are all highly regarded professionals." In many ways, these students and the education they are receiving embody a stated objective of the Payson Center--"to educate and train individuals for work in the development field by combining Tulane's academic resources with new technologies."

The students from Senegal are among 70 students pursuing graduate degrees through the Payson Center, which was founded four years ago by Kelly and former Tulane vice president William Bertrand, who is the center's director. Kelly was Tulane's president from 1980 to 1998. The center uses an interdisciplinary mix of Tulane faculty to teach courses in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Africa, says Kelly.

"We started a master of applied development program in Washington without advertisement and the program took off in a big way," says Kelly.

Students enrolled in the MAD program have come from Latin America, Africa and Asia. The Senegalese students who are working toward PhDs in sustainable development are the first group in an initiative to further educate professionals to take leadership roles in West Africa.

"We see this as a model of providing high-quality, low-cost PhDs," says Kelly. The cost of tuition, transportation and living expenses is being funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"This is one of the most important things that USAID and other donors can do to actually improve other countries around the world," says Nancy Mock, associate professor of international health and development. Mock will be instructing the Senegalese students in research methods this summer and is also the coordinator for a similar program for Rwandan students that will launch in the fall.

Programs in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo also are being planned.

"This is so important because the people we are training are the people who are making the social changes in their country," says Mock, who adds that she is delighted to be one of the "bridge faculty" between the Payson Center and the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. "This is a key strategy. The thing about this program is that these students are getting PhDs in international development but will be engaged in the field of public health. No other university is approaching development in this way."

Diedhiou also believes in this interdisciplinary method. "The challenge is to know that there are many sectors involved in public health--the social sector, the economic sector. You need to have better social systems and better economic systems to have better health."

Kelly sees the mix of competency in information technology and language as key to the program's success. Students receive this training in what Kelly calls a "sandwich program," which has students come to the United States for classes in between two intensive training sessions in their home country. This summer, along with Mock's course on research, the students are taking a statistics course with John Lefante, associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology, and are enrolled in the English as a Second Language Institute at Tulane.

During their first session in Senegal, students took Introduction to Applied Economic Analysis, and Organizational Leadership and Management in Developing Countries, taught by Kelly, and Learning How to Learn with Technology, taught by Bertrand.

"The 21st century is going to be the century of the intellect and intellectual capital," says Kelly. "The progress of a country is going to be determined by the intellectual capital of its people as well as their fluency in English and their sophistication in information technology. The kind of educational opportunity we are providing is critical for Africa's development."

Nick Marinello may be reached at

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000