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WFU, World Bank Institute collaborate on economics course

September 19, 2006

This fall, Wake Forest University economics students are getting an inside look at the challenges World Bank officials face in the fight against global poverty.

Mary McNeil, senior operations officer with the World Bank Institute (WBI), will teach the course titled “Economic Growth and Development” with Sylvain Boko, Zachary T. Smith Associate Professor of Economics at Wake Forest. WBI is the unit of the World Bank that teaches communities and organizations in developing countries how best to use resources to address specific sociopolitical and economic situations causing widespread poverty.

Boko will meet regularly with the class in the university’s Tribble Hall and, occasionally, he will be accompanied by McNeil, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Wake Forest in 1978. Other times, McNeil will join the class by videoconference. World Bank officials and individuals engaged in WBI programs around the world will also connect with the class via videoconference.

So far, videoconferences have been planned to link students to communities in Ghana and the Philippines. On Nov. 3, students will connect with an African Local Government Association meeting, which will involve mayors of cities located in eight developing African nations.

“For one class session, Sylvain may lecture about understanding all facets of poverty: institutional, societal, material, etcetera,” said McNeil. “For the next class meeting, I may arrange for experts in different nations to tell the students about the specific situations at the root of poverty in their respective countries.”

Boko, an expert on African economic development and recovery, initially created the course and has taught it at the university for several years. This is the first time officials from WBI are contributing.

The collaboration between the university and WBI was first suggested by Paula Duggan, who has ties to both institutions. Duggan, a consultant who works with WBI, is married to Wayne King, director of the journalism program and associate professor of journalism at Wake Forest.

“When I saw that Mary’s work dovetailed with Sylvain’s work, it seemed natural to find a way for them to work together,” said Duggan, who has a continuing role in coordinating the project.

Boko and McNeil hope the exposure to various speakers and communities will give the students a better understanding of why poverty is an enduring problem around the world, and why money alone does not solve it.

“There is a lot more to poverty than a lack of money,” said Boko. “Poverty and economic development are linked to how institutions that govern people use resources, specifically, whether those institutions use resources efficiently and in a way that benefits most if not all citizens.”

According to Boko and McNeil, corruption within a government is largely to blame when resources are used inefficiently. Corruption and governance will be a main topic of discussion when the World Bank holds its annual meeting in Singapore this month.

“Poverty continues because citizens have no way to hold governing officials accountable,” McNeil said. “These are the issues Sylvain has been researching, writing about and discussing with students all along. His work is cutting edge. It goes beyond academics.”

Press Contacts:

Maggie Barrett
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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