For Guy-Alain Amoussou, building bridges is the most important task of the day. No, he's not a civil engineer at work spanning a mighty waterway, he's building bridges between disciplines, between continents and between the ways we view the world in a globalized society.
For starters, students in Guy-Alain's computing sciences courses are encouraged to find ways to apply their work to the real world. That means bridging the gap between theoretical software design and creating products that can affect the way we live our lives. "In our capstone course we pick projects that are totally based in the real world, and the students always tell me it's a rewarding experience because they are building something useful for the community."
As the former director of HSU's International Programs, Guy-Alain also oversees an ever-growing group of international students on campus. Students come to Humboldt State through a variety of means, whether through Fulbright scholarships, exchange programs, as fully matriculated students or through dual-degree programs between the U.S. and their host country. All of these students get a chance to improve their English and many get an opportunity to study fields that wouldn't be available to them in their home country. They also provide something to the American students, something that Guy-Alain calls "diversity of the mind."
"In a business class with students from China, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, India, the dynamic will be different. They will enrich the class with the synergy of their knowledge. Diversity of the mind allows students to be more flexible, more aware and ready to be engaged as professionals."
Finally, Guy-Alain sees himself as building bridges back to his native Côte d'Ivoire and his wife's home country, Benin. "My wife was riding the bus into HSU one day and a young student asked her where she was from. She replied 'Benin' and he asked 'is that in the jungle.' So I see it as a responsibility for us to teach people about Africa. For example, if I were to blindfold people and drop them in the business district of Abidjan, the commercial and administrative center of Côte d'Ivoire, you would think you were in a western city. Africa is a very different place than what we see on the news."
To that end Guy-Alain and his wife can be found serving up traditional African foods during festivals on the Arcata plaza or hosting African artists at the Bayside Grange. Both these efforts entertain and educate people in our area and help raise funds for the myriad ventures that Guy-Alain has established both here and abroad. In fact, he'll soon be returning to Africa with a team of students and educators to look for research opportunities in fields like oceanography, geography and more.