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Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Naalamle Amissah


An Interview with Dr. Naalamle Amissah, Lecturer at the University of Ghana

Dr. Naalamle Amissah was an IAD Fellow in 2003. After completing her MS and Ph.D. degrees in Horticulture at Cornell she returned to Ghana in 2007. She became program coordinator of The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana established to train plant breeders in Africa working on the improvement of African crops in local environments for farmers in Africa. In 2013, she was appointed lecturer in the Crop Science Department of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences of the University of Ghana.


Why did you choose Cornell University for your studies and, based on your experiences, what do you perceive as Cornell’s most remarkable strength?

I chose Cornell because of its strong academic and research-centred programs in life sciences particularly horticulture. In addition, the Institute for African Development played a major role in my choosing Cornell. Thanks to a tuition fellowship from IAD and the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University, I obtained MS and Ph.D. degrees in Horticulture.


For me, Cornell stands out as a university because of the diversity of its student population and academic programs; its ability to attract the best and brightest students worldwide, fundraise and improve infrastructure on campus; highly motivated and professional staff; IAD scholarship opportunity; high calibre of faculty and the beauty of the campus.


My experiences at Cornell are parallel to none. There was no question in my mind after graduating that I needed to return home to make a difference after having received such a rich experience.


What do you perceive as the key outcomes and impact of IAD’s work at Cornell and beyond?

In my opinion, Cornell needs an Institute for African Development. A key role of the Institute is that it enables Cornell engage past, current, and future leaders of Africa on major issues affecting the continent and the world at large. IAD’s programming offers the university’s community the opportunity to dialogue and collaborate with other institutes on development research in Africa.  IAD fellows and faculty affiliated with the institute cut across all disciplines at Cornell, allowing for intellectually stimulating seminar/conference discussions as well as trans- and multidisciplinary approaches to problem solving. This puts Cornell at the forefront with regards to developing and implementing innovative solutions to the many problems in Africa.


The training of a critical mass of change agents for Africa through its tuition scholarships given to African students studying at Cornell. IAD fellows all over the world are testament of the Institute’s great achievements in training scholars for Africa. Past fellows in Africa actively contribute to Africa’s development.


The IAD program, through its weekly seminar series and conferences, brings together fellows and distinguished scholars from all over sub-Saharan Africa, creating a unique platform for networking with great minds while deliberating on issues pertinent to the development of Africa. In connection with IAD’s outreach program, IU also had the opportunity to enrich the educational experience of young people in New York State as I shared Ghana’s rich culture with school students. Participating in the IAD seminar series and interacting with other fellows cemented for me the need to go back home and make a change no matter how small.


Where do you see some of the emerging issues in Africa? How can IAD ensure its relevance for the new generation of African scholars and in addressing important challenges and problems of the continent?

The continent continues to face wide-raging issues: Water, oil and gas resources and needs; implications of climate change on agriculture; governance issues; the role of religion in Africa’s development; telecommunications and information technology such as mobile banking; improvement in the quality of research programs in African universities and overall of African university rankings.


IAD can ensure its relevance by continuing to champion Africa's development issues through its programs. Also, creating opportunities for African scholars to benefit from a Cornell education and interact with past fellows for example through developing a mentorship program between fellows in Africa and those currently studying at Cornell. IAD should actively engage the past fellows and leverage their present positions and accomplishments to benefit the institute, current fellows and the larger Cornell community.