Cornell’s Institute for African Development has named Prof. Muna Ndulo, law, who is also a United Nations legal officer, as its director.
According to Ndulo, the interdisciplinary institute falls under the umbrella of the Einauldi Forum, the United Center for International Studies. Easing into his new position, Ndulo said he envisions the institute as a “center for discourse on Africa,” as a coordinating body for students and faculty interested in exploring African subjects.
“My priorities include [making] the institute a center for studies of issues related to Africa and development. Africa faces many challenges and I think that Cornell, with its strength in international affairs, can play a significant role in influencing policies adopted in resolving the direct challenge Africa presents,” Ndulo said.
Ndulo also said he would like to strengthen the institute’s research capabilities.
The institute was established in 1987 under Prof. David B. Lewis, city and regional planning, who was the director since its inception. It strives to foster teaching, research and outreach linked to food security, human resource development, environmental resource management and policy guidance in sub-Saharan Africa. The institute also sponsors regular seminars and symposia, manages a fellowship program for graduate students from Africa and facilitates development of new Africa-related curriculum at Cornell.
Before being named the institute’s director, Ndulo assisted the institute with its publications and led several workshops and ran a weekly seminar series. Ndulo also served as assistant director and filled in for Lewis during periods of his absence.
“He was everybody’s choice for the position,” Lewis said. “The institute is made up of people who all contribute great time and effort and he is certainly one of those people.”
Originally from Zambia, a nation in southern Africa, Ndulo has a law degree from the University of Zambia, a master’s degree in law from Harvard University and a doctorate from Trinity College, at the University of Oxford.
Ndulo served as a visiting professor at Cornell’s law school for two semesters, from the fall of 1984 to the spring of 1985. He worked for the United Nations for ten years as a legal officer, serving in Kosovo, South Africa and, most recently, in East Timor.
Ndulo praised Cornell’s law school for its research, influence and productivity, and said he believes the people of the University ultimately influenced his decision to remain at Cornell.
“I found the faculty good, and the students excellent,” he said. “In the foreseeable future, I’ll be here for awhile. I like the law school — it’s a great school — and the students too. I am deeply honored to be given the honor of institute. I think Cornell is great.”
This semester Ndulo teaches two classes and a seminar in the law school, including a course on the legal aspects of foreign investment in developing countries and another on international organization and human rights. His seminar instructs on common law in African legal systems. Additionally, for the past two semesters Ndulo has flown to Washington D.C. once a week to lecture to students participating in the Cornell in Washington program.
Of the many influential and renowned individuals Ndulo has come into contact with throughout his career, he considers Nelson Mandela to be the most inspiring for his ability to, “see the big picture,” Ndulo said. The two met during Ndulo’s two-year stay in South Africa, while he working for the United Nations to ease the transition from apartheid to a democratic electorate.
Ndulo said has four daughters, one of whom graduated from Cornell University Law School last year.
Archived article by Laura Rowntree