The Malian Ambassador to the United States, Tiéna Coulibaly, came to IUP Tuesday but had to rush back to Washington, D.C., after being appointed Malian Minister of Defense.
Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. According to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. and Mali are strong allies in the fight against violent extremism and terrorism.
Coulibaly, born in 1952, received a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University in 1978.
He later became his country’s minister of finance in 1988 before becoming ambassador to the U.S. in 2014.
Coulibaly said he accepted an invitation to IUP to speak to students about Mali, economics, terrorism and a student exchange program between IUP and the University of Bamako, a public university in the capital of Mali.
An agreement connecting Shepherd University, located in Shepherdstown, W.Va., with the University of Bamako was made by Coulibaly and Shepherd University President Mary J.C. Hendrix March 20. Coulibaly said he wanted to make the same agreement with IUP President Michael Driscoll.
“It is my ambition as ambassador to connect Mali and American universities,” Coulibaly said Tuesday in the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn at IUP.
“This will give students the possibility to come and learn about Mali, its history and economy.”
Coulibaly said that connecting U.S. students with Mali is important for future relations between the two nations.
“When I speak to students, I’m speaking to tomorrow’s ambassador and tomorrow’s president,” Coulibaly said.
IUP economics professor Dr. Yaya Sissoko invited Coulibaly to IUP in November.
Sissoko teaches an economics class called “Poverty in Africa.” He said he initially invited Coulibaly to IUP to speak to the class about this very topic.
“I’m teaching a class solely based on African poverty,” Sissoko said. “The ambassador of Mali would be the best guy to talk about fighting poverty in Africa.”
Sissoko said he wanted the ambassador to speak to the university, as well.
He said that promoting cultural diversity can benefit IUP, especially after an incident in December 2015 that involved an IUP student sending a Snapchat of African Americans captioned with racial slurs.
“I think that it is important to promote cultural diversity,” Sissoko said. “Especially after the Snapchat incident that happened last year.”
Coulibaly said that he regrets not being able to speak to IUP students, but added that he will make sure the new ambassador of Mali comes to IUP to speak to students and fulfill the university partnership agreement with Driscoll.
“The only way humanity will continue to evolve in peace is to travel and learn about different cultures,” Coulibaly said.