KSU Doctoral Student Impacting Africa

Expertise in climate change, conflict management and development gives doctoral student unique opportunity

KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 30, 2019) — Kennesaw State University Ph.D. candidate in Conflict Management Jean-Marc Akakpo has traveled the world, but it is his experiences at KSU that have helped shape the direction he has chosen for his future.

Akakpo says that he originally came to KSU because of its welcoming reputation for international students. However, it was his professors that made him feel at home.

“I’ve loved every class I’ve had,” Akakpo said. “Professors make a huge difference in your life, and mine is changed for the better because of everyone I have learned from here at Kennesaw State.”

Jean-Marc Akakpo, right
Jean-Marc Akakpo, right
As an undergraduate student, he was eager to study economic development. However, during his time in and out of the classroom, he began to see that with development also came conflict and he decided that was something he was interested in tackling. With his newfound interest, Akakpo decided to switch his focus to peace studies and conflict management.

Following graduation, he left KSU to pursue a graduate degree, but when he decided to pursue his Ph.D., he knew that he wanted to return to the place where the professors inspired him as an undergraduate.

“Between the reputation of the Ph.D. program as one of the best in the world and how the professors here treat me as a colleague, it made it easy to choose to return to Kennesaw State for my doctorate,” Akakpo said.

In deciding on a dissertation topic, Akakpo turned to what was familiar. His parents are originally from Ghana and Togo, so he decided to focus his dissertation research on how conflict impacts the development of Africa.

In 2018, Akakpo spent his summer as an intern at the Centre International de Formation des Autorités et Leaders (CIFAL) Atlanta, operating in Durban, South Africa. He taught courses on the impact of international financial organizations on development at a local university. During his time with CIFAL, he highlighted one of the biggest challenges in South Africa: Apartheid and its aftermath.

His work with CIFAL led to an appointment as an external scholar to the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC). This think tank of sub-Saharan Africa works with policymakers, mediators, and government officials on finding solutions to conflicts in West Africa.  

While he returned to Ghana for Kofi Annan Peace and Security Forum, he was invited by Pierre Buyoya, the High Representative of the African Union for Mali and the Sahel to visit the country to learn more. During his week in Mali, Akakpo met with leaders from around the country, including representatives of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the Carter Center Independent Observer of Mali Peace Accord, Jean Ntole Kazadi; former rebels from the northern regions, anthropologists, journalists and civil and religious leaders.

It was an opportunity that Akakpo says is vital to the type of work he wants to do.

 “One of the biggest challenges as researchers is getting close enough to a problem to have a true understanding of what is going on,” he said.  “After just one week in Mali felt like I took a yearlong course on politics, culture, religion and conflict.”

Since returning, Akakpo has been working to incorporate what he experienced in Mali into his research and is looking forward to completing his dissertation and getting back out into the field.

—Andrea Judy

Photos submitted


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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