Keough School awards new professional fellowships

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Sofía del Valle and Djiba Soumaoro.

Sofía del Valle and Djiba Soumaoro.

The Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame has created two new fellowships to support the professional development of graduating master of global affairs students. The Raymond C. Offenheiser Fellowship and the Hesburgh Global Fellowship will subsidize employment with organizations that foster human dignity and equality. The fellowships will be awarded annually.

“These new fellowships demonstrate the Keough School’s commitment to guiding our students on a career path where they can thrive professionally and be a force for good in the world,” said Melinda Fountain, professional development specialist at the Keough School. “We’re delighted to offer them to two outstanding members of our inaugural graduating class.”

Sofía del Valle, from Chile, has received the Raymond C. Offenheiser Fellowship for Active Citizenship. This fellowship will fund del Valle’s work for Oxfam, a global nonprofit organization focused on alleviating poverty and injustice. As a student, del Valle conducted fieldwork with Oxfam in Accra, Ghana, through the Keough School’s Integration Lab. She studied cocoa farming and the cocoa supply chain, aiming to support policy that improves the lives of female cocoa farmers.

Del Valle wanted to continue her work with Oxfam because of the organization’s approach to social problems as complex issues.

“Oxfam is an organization that cares about the issues I care about, and they genuinely put people at the heart of what they do,” she said. “Their emphasis on the structural causes of poverty and inequality set them apart.”

The Offenheiser Fellowship was created in honor of Ray Offenheiser, director of the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD). Before joining NDIGD, part of the Keough School, Offenheiser served for 20 years as president of Oxfam America. Under his leadership, the agency grew eightfold and repositioned itself in the United States as an influential voice on international development, human rights and governance, humanitarianism, and foreign assistance.

The Offenheiser Fellowship is awarded to eligible Keough School graduate students following the completion of their master of global affairs degree. Recipients work for one year at Oxfam’s offices in Boston or Washington, D.C.

Djiba Soumaoro, from Mali, is the recipient of the Hesburgh Global Fellowship. Named for the late Notre Dame President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., the fellowship provides funding for a graduate of the Master of Global Affairs program to pursue work focused on peace, justice, development or other related fields. Soumaoro will work for the Ouelessebougou Alliance, first in Salt Lake City, Utah, then in Mali’s Ouelessebougou region, where Soumaoro was born and raised.

“I want to give hope to disadvantaged and marginalized people in the same way some incredible people gave hope and opportunity to me while I was living in extreme poverty,” said Soumaro, who was the first of his 11 siblings to pursue a formal education. “I want to pay forward all the good that I have received in life.”

The Ouelessebougou Alliance works in partnership with local villagers to transform the quality of life in the region by facilitating sustainable health and education programs.

Soumaoro plans to draw upon the knowledge and skills he developed at the Keough School, especially an informed understanding of structural violence and the conflict analysis skills he practiced as an intern with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Through his six-month International Peace Studies field experience in the U.S., Mali and Senegal, Soumaoro worked with the CRS Equity, Inclusion and Peacebuilding team on efforts to improve conditions for youth and women around the world.

The Keough School’s Master of Global Affairs program, launched in August 2017, is a two-year professional degree program that prepares students for skilled, effective leadership and careers in government, nongovernmental and civil society organizations and the private sector. The inaugural master of global affairs class will graduate from Notre Dame on May 19.