Professor Akim Adekpedjou set the bar high as the first researcher to present in ASE’s Academic Research Seminar Series. This weekly seminar series will provide ASE students the opportunity to engage with high-quality scholarly research. This exposure to first-rate studies will surely benefit students as they look ahead to their own Master’s Thesis Defenses at the end of their studies at ASE. By welcoming a wide-range of scholarly talent to ASE’s campus on a regular basis, this series is sure to spark the academic interests of students.

The first presenter, Prof. Akim Adekpedjou, is an associate professor of statistics at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He has a PhD in statistics from the University of South Carolina. His research interests range from complex survey data, reliability theory, applied stochastic processes, actuarial science, parametric and nonparametric survival analysis, and recurrent events.

His seminar focused on recurrent events, as expressed in his paper entitled, “Chi Square Test Based on Random Cells With Recurrent Events.” Prof. Adekpedjou explained that recurrent event data is often observed in a wide variety of disciplines including the biomedical, public health, engineering, economic, actuarial science, and social science settings. His paper develops a procedure to test the null hypothesis that the distribution of recurrent events belongs to some parametric family of distributions. This test is based on the minimum chi-square estimator and a nonparametric maximum likelihood estimator of the distribution of events. Prof. Adekpedjou stressed the importance of modeling and testing recurrent events to evaluating policy effectiveness in the aforementioned disciplines.

 As a statistician, Prof. Adekpedjou provided a detailed explanation for the students with previous degrees in Mathematics, while applying his research to a fleet of Boeing 720 jet planes' air conditioning systems for those with alternative backgrounds. Prof. Adekpedjou made time to address students’ questions and concerns.

Anceline Bayavuge (MMES, Class of 2016) appreciated the opportunity to question Prof. Adekpedjou on his work. “He explained the difficult topics with ease and answered all our questions. I now see that the statistical methods in his paper are less complicated than I originally imagined,” explained Anceline.

On September 23, 2014 at 12 p.m., Professor Justé Some will deliver the next academic seminar on his latest paper: Oil Demand and Supply Shocks in Canada’s Economy.

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Professor Akim Adekpedjou (left) addresses the students at ASE.

September 20, 2014. The process of data collection is foreign to many students, who simply take the existence of reliable social science data for granted. On Saturday, September 20, 33 ASE students were exposed to the process of a large-scale study on local bureaucratic governance in Bénin. The students gathered for an intensive training session, where they developed survey enumeration skills and familiarized themselves with the project.

The training session was led by staff from the Institute of Empirical Research in Political Economy (IERPE), including Research Associate Andre Gueguehoun. This workshop was a chance for students to apply the statistical and methodological skills they have learned in the classroom, such as randomization methods and survey design, to practical applications in the field. The instruction was designed to put students in the role of field researchers and to directly involve them in an ongoing research project.

The students’ participation is a component of ASE’s Work-Study Program. In an effort to reduce the cost of tuition, the Work-Study Program acts as the core of ASE’s financial aid system. ASE is committed to ensuring talented students with limited financial resources are included in the community of ASE. Student employment offers students the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge in a professional setting. As members of this research project, students will discover valuable field research techniques, learn to thrive in a culturally diverse team, and acquire supplementary expertise outside the focus of their studies.

During the training session, students were briefed on the theoretical objectives of the project, so that they would understand its wider social and political relevance. This briefing included a theoretical discussion of the differences between passive and active corruption. Following this discussion, Rasmané Nitiema (MBA, Class of 2016) expressed his belief that the results of this study, along with his newfound theoretical understanding, will help him and his peers fight against corruption in his home country of Burkina Faso.

After a thorough review of accompanying survey questions, the students participated in group simulation exercises to practice administering surveys in the field. This simulation was Claire Wonje’s (MMES, Class of 2016) first experience administering a survey. With her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics and Social Sciences from Université de Yaoundé 1, she believes this experience has expanded her understanding of how data is structured and the importance of careful data collection.

Later this semester, students will be asked to utilize the day’s lessons in the field. To prepare for this task, students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the study’s questionnaire. The workshop leaders encouraged all students to practice the survey simulation exercise at home. With this practice, students will be prepared for their time in the field.

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Claire Wonje (far left) questions the instructors on the structure of the large-scale empirical study.

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Rasmané Nitiema (far right) engages with the theoretical discussion of passive and active corruption.

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Andre Gueguehoun (far left), Research Associate from the Institute of Empirical Research in Political Economy (IERPE), presenting the project’s questionnaire.

September 6, 2014. Under the mid-day sun, academia met athleticism within the vicinity of campus. Sports enthusiasts, from both ASE and IREEP, clashed in a game of soccer .

When we arrived at the primary school pitch, it was a great sight to see Professor Wantchekon, warming up in one of the goal areas. As an ardent observer, rather than participant myself, I soon realized that the game of soccer is best enjoyed as a player, rather than as a spectator.

From the sidelines, the early indications of a goal fiesta faded when it seemed that the back line of both teams was better at ball control than the wasteful, blunt attacking offered by their comrades up front. Over 15 minutes pasted before Team IREEP’s goalkeeper was forced to make a meaningful save. The most potent threat came from Team IREEP’s defense, when a splitting pass from inside the centre area found a reliable centre forward. The forward’s fumbled shot fell to the advancing right fullback, who succeeded in forcing a fine save from the alert ASE goaltender.    

The momentum appeared to awaken the opposition into action and Team ASE began their own siege of the IREEP defense area. Team ASE’s persistence was rewarded with three successive “throw-ins.” At this stage, the game was heating up.

There were brief stops when the Referee, Roland Leudjou, and his assistant had difficulty agreeing over an infringement against Team IREEP towards the half hour mark. From the resulting compromise, Team IREEP took a short corner, which went agonizingly close to giving the game its first goal. The goal drought was sure to end soon.

Skillful play combined with a bit of a fortune allowed Team ASE’s skipper, Wilfried Youmbi, to go one-on-one with Team IREEP’s goalkeeper. Team ASE’s skipper shot wide; leaving his bewildered teammates, literally, scratching their heads. In a strong counter-attack, Team IREEP’s Benjamin Djiffa worked with his fellow midfielders to score the game’s first goal.

Team ASE found an opportunity to equalize in the form of a penalty kick. After an IREEP defender was judged to have fouled one of Team ASE’s forwards inside the box. Patrice Yedomiffi was called upon to take the penalty for Team ASE. His clean shot landed in the back of the net bringing the score to 1-1.

This action faded with the realization that the game was heading into extra time with neither of the sides able to deliver a knockout blow.

In the first-half of extra time, the lack of accuracy continued. To be fair, the contrary would be too much to ask from the amateur, and hastily assembled sides. On a normal day, both sides would be more recognized for their brains, as opposed to their feet. When it was clear that the deadlock would not be broken after all, both teams looked to be playing for the spot kicks.

Team ASE must not have thought that spot kicks would require much technique, as their first two kicks bore marks of lethargy, rather than of precision. After a number of accurate kicks from Team IREEP, Team ASE’s final striker shot wide. This handed Team IREEP a memorable victory and one that many ASE students would prefer to forget.

Both Benjamin and Patrice were rewarded for their goals with the honor of being named “Player of the Match” for their respective teams. After this celebration, all players and spectators were rewarded for their efforts with refreshments.

Following the successful football match, students were invited to sign-up for the ASE Sports & Recreation Committee. This student-led committee will organize activities outside of the classroom for students to socialize, compete and connect together.  Thus, many more football matches, movie nights, and country-specific cultural evenings will occur later this semester. With the leadership of the Sports & Recreation Committee, ASE students will have plenty of opportunities to develop friendships with their peers and strengthen the ASE community.  

This report was prepared by ASE Students: Gilchrist Tohouenou & Patrice Yedomiffi.

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Spectators take in the action.

September 4, 2014 will be remembered as a celebratory first day of class  at the African School of Economics. Students, staff and faculty members gathered at ASE’s campus in Abomey-Calavi, Benin to commence the academic year. The incoming class of 80 students was full of energy, as they settled into their seats for an introduction of the new ASE staff and faculty members

The President of ASE, Professor Leonard Wantchekon, delivered an opening speech to celebrate this monumental occasion. He encouraged students to consider what they can contribute to the ASE community in the days ahead. A strong emphasis was placed on the importance of studying hard and working together to overcome the impending academic challenges. Prof. Wantchekon reassured the students that their efforts to build a strong analytical foundation will bear fruit in the years to come.

Following the President’s remarks, each faculty and staff member introduced themselves and professed their aspirations for the academic year ahead. The range of experiences and objectives varied between faculty and staff members. The students welcomed each individual with a cheerful reception.

After the jovial introductions, the students parted ways to their respective lectures. The Master in Mathematics, Economics & Statistics (MMES) students started the semester with a Mathematics lecture from Professor Maxime Agbo. At the same time, Professor David Gbaguidi delivered his first lecture of the semester in Macroeconomics to the Master in Business Administration (MBA) students.

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Introducing ASE Staff and Faculty members.
From left to right: Prof. David Gbaguidi, Prof. Louise Grogan, Courtney Quinney (Research Manager), Prof. Juste Some, Prof. Agnès Zabsonré, Phil Spencer (Visiting Research Associate), Clementine Assese (Associate Dean of Academic Affairs), Prof. Maxime Agbo, Prof. Akim Adekpedjou.

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Professor Maxime Agbo (far right) delivers a Mathematics lecture to the MMES students.

 

September 15, 2014. Jessica Gregory and Jonathan Liebman, two undergraduate students from Princeton University who spent a couple of months in Cotonou as summer interns at IREEP, presented the highlights of their experience in a poster presentation last Friday September 12 at the Student Research Symposium organised by the Center for Health and Wellbeing (CHW).

The symposium, held at Princeton University, gathered students who conducted research projects and participated in 2014 summer internships sponsored by CHW’s global health and U.S. health policy programs.

Gregory and Liebman’s presentations focused on their participation in an ongoing IREEP research project that analyzes Emergency Care and Political Economy in Benin. During their stay, they assisted in the collection of data for a survey study involving patients, doctors and administrators.

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Jessica Gregory presenting the poster

 

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Jonathan Liebman pointing at some of the key findings