Dr. Leonard WantchekonDr. Léonard Wantchékon, Founder and Director of the African School of Economics (ASE), welcomed members of the ASE Board of Directors, dignitaries, and IERPE staff members and students to the ASE’s first annual international conference on education. “The Skills Debate: Liberal Arts Education Versus Vocational Training” was the title of the conference held Saturday, August 17, 2013 at the Novotel Hotel in Cotonou.

The presenters included Dr. Vicky Barham of the University of Ottawa, Dr. Wantchékon, Ms. Maria Theresa Fernandez de la Vega Sanz of Mujeres por África Foundation (Women for Africa), and Dr. N'Dri T. Assié-Lumumba of Cornell University.

Dr. Vicky Barham gave the first presentation that focused on defining the differences between European and North American higher education models. In her presentation, she highlighted the North American liberal arts model for universities. The liberal arts model exposes students to an array of subjects beyond their main areas of study and includes courses in literature, foreign languages, and philosophy, for example. Thus, through the liberal arts, students are exposed to a variety of subjects and have increased opportunities to develop critical thinking skills to unlock new perspectives on their primary fields of study.

In the second presentation, Dr. Wantchékon discussed the importance of studying history and civics for political and economic development. During his talk, he looked at the core subjects of liberal arts education as the domains of knowledge that people need in order to be free citizens and active participants in a democracy.

The International Conference on Education, hosted by the African School of EconomicsThe afternoon session began with a speech by Ms. Maria Theresa Fernandez de la Vega Sanz on the importance of gender equity in higher education. She also presented an overview of the achievements made by the Mujeres por África Foundation.

The final speaker was Dr. N'Dri T. Assié-Lumumba who gave an in-depth presentation on women in higher education and showed how they are underrepresented in African higher education institutions.

In addition to those already mentioned, Mr. Gilbert Migan, Technical Advisor to the Minister of Secondary Education, and Ms. Vicentia Boko of the National Institute for the Promotion of Women were also in attendance.

After the final presentation, the conference concluded with a time for questions and answers and thoughtful discussion.

Participants at the Annual Board Meeting of the African School of EconomicsDr. Léonard Wantchékon, Founder and Director of the African School of Economics (ASE), welcomed members of the ASE Board of Directors, representatives from Princeton University, and associated IERPE staff members to the annual board meeting at the Novotel Hotel in Cotonou, August 16, 2013.

The meeting included progress reports given by Dr. Wantchékon, a financial report given by ASE Business Manager Ms. Ishana Gopaul, committee meetings, and approval of action plans.

Dr. Wantchékon presented the updated administrative structure for the ASE, job descriptions for senior administrative and academic positions, and an update on construction. Recruitment for senior leadership positions, including a provost, will soon begin.

In the financial report, Ms. Gopaul presented the achievements made in fundraising. She highlighted the $750,000 contribution from Mujeres por África Foundation (Women for Africa). This money will be used over the course of five years for empirical research on issues that affect the lives of women, annual seminars on development issues, and scholarships for female graduate students. Also, SES S.A., a satellite company based in Luxembourg, has given the ASE €120,000 for scholarships.

Ms. Gopaul continued by explaining that the ASE was registered in Benin as a foundation on July 6, 2012 and as a corporation on November 30, 2012. This dual structure allows the ASE to operate as a for-profit institution and benefit from the ease of fundraising as a non-profit. The ASE is also in the process of being registered as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in New Jersey.

In the afternoon session, members formed one committee to discuss human resources and communication issues and a second committee formed to discuss academic administration. The meeting ended with committee presentations and votes to accept their plans of action.

In addition to those already named, members of the Board of Directors present included Ms. Catherine Koussou, Director of Financial Planning, Reporting, and Analysis in the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Treasury at Princeton University; Ms. María Teresa Fernández de la Vega Sanz, President of Mujeres por África Foundation; Dr. Vicky Barham, Chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Ottawa, Canada; and Dr. Ali Hadi, Founding Director of the Actuarial Science Program and former Vice Provost and Director of Graduate Studies and Research at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Also present was International Advisory Board Member Dr. N'Dri T. Assié-Lumumba, Professor of African and Diaspora Education, Comparative and International Education, Social Institutions, African Social History, and the Study of Gender in the African Studies and Research Center at Cornell University.