ATLANTA—A young girl selling eggplants in an open market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, pointed Miriam Savane Massandje (B.A. ‘21) to her future. Their exchange helped lead her to the International University of Grand-Bassam and then Georgia State University. She will enter the London School of Economics this fall to pursue an MSc in Development Economics.
“Mom would send me to the market to get groceries,” Massandje said. “I met a girl there, Adjoua, who was 12. She told me she came to Abidjan to go to school. But she lived with an aunt who made her go to the market and sell eggplants all day. When I asked her, ‘Why don’t you tell your parents?’, she said she’d prefer to stay in Abidjan. If she had stayed in her village, she would have to get married at 15. I was angry and frustrated about her situation but could do nothing to help her because I was only 16.”
Once home, Massandje told her parents about the meeting.
“Her story made me ask questions about life,” she said. “I noticed that in my country people face difficulties every day. Some can’t eat twice a day. I was very hurt to see people didn’t have a better quality of life. Why? How can I help? My dad is an economist statistician, so I asked him, ‘how do you reduce or stop this?’ He said the solution is to be close to the policymakers of Africa government.”
Massandje understood that improving economic policy and institutions can contribute to the economic development of a country. She decided to study harder, took economics classes and received a Presidential Scholarship. The B.B.A. program of her local university did not satisfy her career goals. So, she transferred to Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (AYSPS).
“Georgia State University is an inspiring school,” she said. “It teaches policy and economics, and policy is really important for developing countries. It helps some countries rise above the poverty line.”
Her mission is to make a similar impact. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in regional economics and international development and work as a development economist.
“Economics will help me achieve my goal to help people in developing nations have a better quality of life and reduce poverty. As a woman, if I have a Ph.D. in economics and international development studies and come back to my country, women like Adjoua, they’re going to see me as an example of what’s possible. There are many African women today who are achieving things. We need more, though, to increase this impact and motivate girls—and especially their parents—to change their minds about how women can contribute to the development of our world. Gaining access to knowledge shouldn’t be restricted to anyone, no matter their gender, social status and age.”
To get ahead in her studies, Massandje enrolled in the AYSPS BA/MA dual degree program and secured an internship at Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Economy and Finance.
“GSU gives many opportunities to students to succeed and be competitive on the job market internationally,” she said. “AYSP faculty members will always be there to mentor and help students achieve their academic and professional goals.”