Djiba Soumaoro

Political Science: The Degree 4 Me

Djiba Soumaoro never thought he would visit the United States, let alone earn undergraduate and graduate degrees here. But thanks to the support of his sponsors from Utah, he graduated from Utah Valley University, and he recently graduated from the Keough School of Global Affairs at Notre Dame University. He also received the Hesburgh Global Fellowship.

Soumaoro grew up in the Republic of Mali in West Africa where he spent his days watching the children at the local schoolhouse through the window since his parents weren’t able to send him to school. One day, the principal was kind enough to invite Soumaoro into the classroom, igniting his life-long love of education. Seeing his enthusiasm for education, Soumaoro’s grandmother and uncles were able to collect enough money to allow him to become the first of his 11 siblings to pursue an education.

UVU’s International Student Programs were a big draw for Soumaoro. He chose to pursue a degree in political science with a minor in peace and justice studies to further his goal of becoming an ambassador. During his time at UVU, Soumaoro said that he especially enjoyed attending UN-related conferences like the Model United Nations of the Far West and the United Nations General Assembly. “A good education is the key to breaking the circle of poverty and changing people’s lives in truly excellent ways,” Soumaoro said.

After leaving UVU, Soumaoro had his pick of graduate programs but chose to accept a full scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, where he earned a Master’s degree in Global Affairs. He is also the first recipient of the Hesburgh Global Fellowship, a program that provides funding for Notre Dame global affairs graduates who pursue work focused on peace, justice, development, and equality.

With this fellowship, Soumaoro plans to work for the Ouelessebougu Alliance, an organization based in Utah that improves the quality of life in Mali, West Africa through sustainable health and education programs. “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. “I want to pay forward all the good that I have received in life.”