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Interview of Mastercard Foundation Scholar Astou Diouf
- Astou Diouf ©Didier Pazery
Astou Diouf from Senegal is part of the first cohort of Mastercard Foundation Scholars studying at the Sciences Po campus in Reims. Astou plans one day to start a business in the agri-food industry in Africa.
You are nearing the end of your first year at Sciences Po. What were your first impressions? Did your experience change over the course of the year?
I arrived in a totally new environment and like any newcomer, I had to adapt to the social norms and take care of all the administrative procedures required to get set up here. At first, I was in that exciting phase of discovery of Reims and its beautiful buildings, and I was impressed by the cultural diversity inside and outside Sciences Po. Then as time went by, I had trouble adapting to the climate and keeping up with the coursework, what with the fairly abrupt transition from high school to university. But thanks to very effective academic support and guidance, I gained experience and maturity.
In Senegal, you took part in a summer camp focused on developing leadership and entrepreneurship skills. What qualities do you think a leader or entrepreneur needs today?
To a certain extent, the essential qualities of an entrepreneur or a leader are complementary. They centre on being able to identify the needs of your community and to respond effectively. It’s not a matter of individual action where the aim is to show off your own skills but of collective action that requires the active participation of each member of the community. I believe in service leadership and that’s the basis of my desire to help the needy through practical and impactful involvement.
You are a Mastercard Foundation Scholar and you plan one day to start a business in the agri-food industry. Can you tell us more about that?
The plan is focused on developing Senegal’s agribusiness industry through the transformation of agricultural products, which involves improving producer-consumer relations, industrial restructuring and the development of efficient strategies that suit existing social structures. On a larger scale, the plan’s objective is to promote interregional cooperation in the industry in Africa so as to facilitate economic integration. Given the global dynamics of the agriculture industry, I believe it is imperative to strengthen the sector in Africa and to be able to respond to food and environmental challenges. Thanks to the summer camp I attended, I got interested in various agri-food sectors and I had the privilege of working with students and business leaders who aspire to contribute to the continent’s development. I would like to play my part.
What have you learned at Sciences Po that will help you with your project?
In general, I’ve been able to develop my critical thinking and analytical skills on a given subject through each of the modules I’ve taken. The strong focus on political, economic and social dynamics around the world will help me to study and analyse the factors I’ll need to work on to see my plan through.
How does the Mastercard Foundation programme support you with your experience at Sciences Po and your career plans?
Being a part of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars programme and meeting other young Africans who share a love for Africa is really a golden opportunity. Thanks to the superb programme coordinators, Marie Azuelos and Lucille Amsallem, my fellow scholars and I have been able to overcome the difficulties that we’ve faced both academically and socially. With regard to our career plans, we have taken part in several activities that gave us insight into rewarding professional opportunities, such as the Forum Afrique Destination Emplois that was held in Paris. In addition, the programme gives us the chance to build a considerable network through a mentoring scheme and meetings with executives and senior civil servants.
Read more about the first cohort of Sciences Po - Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program
4 medals for Sciences Po
- L'Assault, Sciences Po's fencing team ©Sciences Po
L’Assaut, Sciences Po’s fencing team, has just returned from the latest French University championships with four medals, including two gold. Interview with team captain Adrien Dorny.
Adrien Dorny, you and your team have returned with four medals including two gold from the latest French University Fencing Championships. Is this a consecration for your fencing team?
We are very proud of these results! Four medals, it's the most we’ve won at French University championships. The two team golds make us particularly happy. For the ladies, the champion title of France is all the more rewarding because it all played out in the very last moments of the final. As for the men's, we were really eager to win the gold since we had taken home the silver last year. All our shooters leave medalists, we couldn’t imagine better!
Since when have you practiced fencing? How do you articulate the time spent studying and your passion for the sport?
Most of us started fencing very young. The sport is a really important part of our lives. We have many associated memories. It allowed us to forge friendships, face defeat, or to gain confidence. More specifically, fencing is a spectacular sport, particularly tactical, where endurance, speed, precision and risk-taking are valued. Combining studies and training in our respective clubs and university and federal competitions has been, since high school, a challenge for all of us. It’s not always easy in everyday life, it requires good organization.
Tell us about your team, L’Assault. Does one need to be a champion to join?
This year we had eight qualified members for the French championships, from the Undergraduate College (Paris and Reims campuses) and the Master's level, and from the Certificate Programme for high-level athletes of Sciences Po. A wise mix in short! In total, our team consists of about fifteen members regularly participating in university competitions. But we welcome everyone, beginners and advanced. I encourage all Sciences Po students to discover this fascinating sport through the sword initiation courses offered by the Sports Association. For those who practice or have already practiced fencing in the past, we expect to see you next year to continue to garnish our trophy cabinet!
How do you see your team’s future in the years to follow?
Our team was created in 2015, so it’s still quite young. We want to continue to develop it to make it one of Sciences Po’s main teams. This, of course, will require winning more medals at the French university championships, but also recruiting more members and having an effective communication with students. Ultimately, one of our goals would be to have fencing recognized as a "mystery" sport at the inter-IEP tournament, the "Crit"! I’m sure our fencers would greatly help Sciences Po win the competition.
At the 2018 French University Championships, Amelie Awong (épée) and Adrien Dorny (foil) each won a bronze medal in the individual event. The women’s fencing team, composed of Amelie Awong and Mailys Vignoud, and the men's foil team, composed of Gautier Merit, Victor Querton, Adrien Dorny and Audric Heurtier, each won a gold medal.
In three years of existence, L'Assaut, created in 2015, has won eight national medals, including four gold.
Interview of Mastercard Foundation Scholar Zipporah Gakuu
- Portrait of Zipporah Gakuu ©Didier Pazery / Sciences Po
Zipporah Gakuu is a first-year student and part of the first cohort of Mastercard Foundation scholars at Sciences Po. From Kenya to her first steps on campus to today, her commitment to giving back to society and defending women and children’s rights is growing everyday.
You are now in your second semester of your studies at Sciences Po. What were your first impressions when you arrived?
My first semester was initially a bit of a hurdle due to the language barrier and the different climate. Today, my French has improved drastically and I am more adjusted to the weather, considering it was my first winter experience!
What have you learned so far that has changed how you apprehend your career goals?
I have learned that anything is attainable as long as you put your all into whatever it is you want.
Have you gotten involved in any clubs, athletics or other student life activities on campus? What have these experiences brought you?
I am a member of the SASA Association on campus, which is an association that focuses on African issues. As a member of the Logistics pole, I am immersed and engaged in African issues by discussing and debating with fellow African intellects, but also by coming up with possible solutions to try and act on them. This has enlightened me on the whole scope of possibilities for the African continent to overcome its challenges through unity. I also joined the Amnesty International in Reims and AISEC. Through these associations, I have been able to express my opinion and standpoints on different issues facing humanity. I have become more aware of various human rights issues and their violations. It has encouraged me to not remain silenced whenever these violations occur, and it has made me realize that even small actions such as signing petitions can have a great ripple effect.
After high school, you volunteered at the Child Vision Support Foundation, helping disadvantaged young women access sanitary products. How did this experience shape your aspirations?
I attended a public primary school in Naivasha, Kenya. At thirteen, most of my female classmates were starting their menstrual periods. Some of them would opt for pieces of cloth or cotton as they did not have access to proper sanitary towels. Others would not come to school at all during their menstrual periods. This made me realize the challenge that young school girls faced during this time of the month. Despite the efforts of some NGOs to hand out sanitary towels to adolescent girls, they were never enough. More needed to be done, thus, during my gap year, I decided to volunteer with the organization.
This experience nurtured my passion for community service and giving back to society. It made me a believer in small efforts having huge effects on society. It empowered me and encouraged me to motivate other young girls in my society to come together to achieve the goals they set for themselves and their communities.
You've said that you would like to become further involved in defending women and children's rights in Africa with organizations such as Amnesty International. What main developments would you like to see happen?
Women and children tend to be the most vulnerable members of society. Their rights are infringed everyday despite the efforts of countless organizations that support them. I dream of a day where gender equality shall be attained, a society where half the population shall no longer be held in silence. My goal is to empower as many young women as I can, as women are the pivots of society. Once a woman’s rights are observed, children also see their rights defended. I imagine a community where no child dies of starvation, no child has to hawk in the streets, no child has to sleep out in the cold, and each and every child has access to basic needs. To achieve this, one needs to understand why these issues arose in the first place, why our societies oppress women and children. Studying social sciences at Sciences Po will give me this knowledge. It will help me understand the process of socialization and maybe then, we can be able to retrace our steps to what went wrong.
How has the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program accompanied you in your learning experience at Sciences Po?
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I have been connected to a strong network of African scholars around the globe, all who are ambitious and true visionaries. More so, Sciences Po has enabled me to network with professionals through forums such as the Forum Afrique Destination Emplois that was held in Paris in November; an enlightening experience. The program has also provided great support for me here at Sciences Po, facilitating my smooth adjustment into the curriculum and the different aspects of life on campus.
- About the Sciences Po undergraduate College and the Europe-Africa programme
- About the MasterCard Foundation programme and scholarships at Sciences Po
Read more about the first cohort of Sciences Po - Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program
A new genre of journalism
- Are We Europe receiving a prize for journalism @Christian Beaussier/Sciences Po
What does it mean to be European today? Several Sciences Po students asked themselves this very question when they created Are We Europe, an online magazine that is now a community of 150 photographers, videomakers and journalists all around Europe.
After one year and 7 issues, Are We Europe won the European Charlemagne Youth Prize and gained financial support from the Dutch journalism fund. We interviewed Kyrill Hartog, Dutch-Ukrainien co-founder and student of the Sciences Po School of Public Affairs.
Every issue of Are We Europe deals with a specific theme: unity in Europe, the future of European cities, climate and nature, etc. Twenty or so Sciences Po students are regular contributors to the magazine. Are We Europe is currently raising funds for their print edition.
Tribute to Simone Veil and Jeannie de Clarens
- Illustration of the Simone Veil Lecture Hall ©Sciences Po
Students will now have class in the Simone Veil or Jeannie de Clarens lecture halls, the first at Sciences Po to be named after women. In honor of two extraordinary graduates, this decision to rename lecture halls after two female alumni with extraordinary stories is a symbolic gesture in celebration of International Women’s Day, amongst other actions taken in favor of gender equality.
Simone Veil (1927-2017), a major political figure and icon of the Women’s Rights movement
Located at the 28 rue des Saint-Pères site in the heart of Paris, the Caquot lecture hall is being renamed Simone Veil after one of Sciences Po’s most famous graduates who passed away in June 2017. Simone Veil began her studies at Sciences Po at 18 years old in October 1945, less than six months after returning from a concentration camp in Germany, where most of her family died. She spent three “happy and intense” years studying in the Public Service section, one of the most male-dominated sections of the institution at the time, with only 20% of women. She graduated in 1948 at 21 years old, highly determined to enter the professional world once her husband, Antoine Veil, whom she met at Sciences Po, had graduated from ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration or French School of Administration). In 1956, Simone Veil passed the national examination to become a magistrate. In 1970, she became secretary general of the Supreme Magistracy Council. In 1974, she became the Minister of Health and within the same year successfully pushed the law that legalized abortion, becoming an icon of the Women’s Rights movement. She later became the first president of the European Parliament (1979-1982), and a prominent political figure in the construction of the European Union. She passed away in June 2017, and was elected to the Académie Française (French Academy) in 2018. She will enter the Pantheon in July of 2018.
Jeannie de Clarens (1919-2017), interpreter, spy and heroine of the French Resistance
Born in 1919, Jeannie Rousseau was the daughter of a brilliant multilingual diplomat. She studied at Sciences Po from 1937 to 1940 and graduated at the top of her class. At the outbreak of World War II, she moved with her family to Dinard, Brittany, where she began working as an interpreter for the occupying German forces. This led her to become one of the most talented (and unknown) spies of the Second World War. In Brittany and then in Paris, where she returned in 1941, she transmitted information that she gathered from the German authorities thanks to her position as a translator and interpreter. In 1942, she was recruited by the French Resistance. Under the code name “Amniarix,” she was responsible for one of the greatest exploits of the Allied forces for transmitting intelligence that allowed the British army to delay the development of the German flying bombs V-1 and V-2. In April 1944, she was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Ravensbrück. One year later, in April 1945, she was released and returned to Paris. After the war, she married Henri de Clarens and pursued a career in translation, working for the United Nations and other international organizations. She seldomly spoke about her past. She was later awarded the Resistance Medal and the Croix de Guerre. In 2009, she was made a member of the Legion of Honor. She passed away on August 23rd, 2017, at 98 years old.
> Read her portrait in The New York Times.
Sciences Po’s actions for gender equality
As one of 10 “University Champions” of the United Nations’ HeForShe programme, Sciences Po is committed to promoting gender equality through a number of actions: professional workshops and awareness campaigns on everyday sexism, recommendations sent to faculty on preventing inequalities in the classroom, a "bring your children to work" day on 28 March, 2018, and many more.
> Discover 8 ways Sciences Po acts to advance gender equality.