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Assessment

As mentioned in the background information on this trip, the ideas we had in mind for strengthening and extending Wake Forest University's connection with Benin included

In addition, Sylvain -- who has run the Benin program as pretty much a one-man show for the past four years -- was concerned to involve others, to make it clear to people in Benin that the program has the active and official backing of his University, and in general to put the program "on the map" to a greater extent than hitherto.

I believe we made a useful start on most of things we set out to achieve. The meetings with government Ministers and other officials mostly went very well. Although Sylvain did most of the talking on these occasions he evidently found it useful to have the delegation on hand -- with Department Chairs, a Dean, and the director of International Studies -- as a visible sign of Wake Forest's commitment. The lack of interest in internships on the part of Catholic Relief Services, and the apparent difficulties of creating a mutually beneficial relationship with the National University, were disappointments, but the UNDP representative was very positive, and various possibilities that came up in talking with USAID and Songhaï seem to hold considerable promise. To make something of these possibilities, however, we will have to work to keep up the momentum. The Benin group should probably aim to meet at the beginning of the Fall semester to compare notes and discuss where we go from here.

It was also useful to make contact with other American academics operating in Benin: Alfred Frederick of SUNY-Oswego and the Bowling Green group. While Wake's program has focused on economic development, the emphasis of the Bowling Green program is on culture and society. We reckoned that both groups of students could benefit from some degree of interchange.

In closing, I should say that we were all very impressed with Sylvain's hard work and dedication. The program he established offers a unique educational experience for Wake students; it also -- if the rest of us are willing to work at it -- holds out the prospect of making a small but useful contribution to the development of his native country.