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From Ghana to Washington DC, OHIO graduate student uses applied knowledge to expand economic development

Daniel Kington
September 5, 2017

Ohio University graduate student Francis Anagbonu spent 10 weeks of his summer in the nation’s capital, applying the theories learned through master’s programs in economics and mathematics to gain hands-on experience in economic development.

As the Jeffrey A. Finkle Ohio University Economic Development intern, Anagbonu worked on the International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) knowledge management and development team. Guided by independent research, Anagbonu’s main role with the IEDC was collaborating with other interns to develop resources and information, which the IEDC will use for continuing education for economic development professionals and elected officials through courses on topics such as real estate and workforce development. Anagbonu reviewed existing materials to evaluate their usability in the IEDC courses, as well as produced new materials.

Additionally, Anagbonu attended many lectures for economic development professionals on topics such as state policy and the role of small businesses, which he summarized on a blog for IEDC members.

“The internship allowed me to experience the real world concerns of economic development professionals and study the real world application of economic theories,” Anagbonu said.

"Francis used his analytical capabilities to support several projects,” said Mishka Parkins, an economic development associate at the IEDA and the program’s internship coordinator. “His findings were used to develop tailored content for workshops delivered to leaders in the region, and his research on one project was used by an IEDC member to make the case for the benefits of economic development to city leaders.”

Anagbonu first became interested in economic development growing up in Ghana.

“Growing up in a developing country, I saw poverty and its detrimental effects,” Anagbonu said. “I began to feel that something could be done about that situation. That’s what led me to be interested in economic development.”

Ultimately, this feeling led Anagbonu to Ohio University and to the IEDC internship. Anagbonu will spend another year at OHIO completing his master’s in mathematics, and is currently completing his final research paper for his master’s in economics, focused on the determinants of economic development in Ghana, including government policy.

Anagbonu said his time in D.C. helped shape his economics thesis project by teaching him about the relationship between state policy and development. “Fiscal reform is directly related to economic development,” Anagbonu said. “If you look at poverty, the cause is often unwise government spending and tax policy.”

Anagbonu was able to apply for the internship thanks to the IEDC’s $25,000 gift to the Ohio University Foundation, which offers Ohio University undergraduate and graduate students affiliated with the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs the opportunity to intern at the IEDC every year. Anagbonu’s position at TechGROWTH Ohio, where he works on market research for business start-ups, originally connected him to the Voinovich School and the IEDC internship.

The internship recognizes 25 years of national leadership in economic development by Jeffery A. Finkle, a 1976 graduate of Ohio University, Voinovich Fellow, University Medal of Merit recipient and recognized leader and international authority on economic development. As President and CEO of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the world’s largest economic development membership organization, he contributes his expertise on community revitalization, business development and job creation to projects nationwide.

“Francis brought a tremendous spirit to IEDC,” Finkle said, “He was inquisitive, he was thoughtful and, because of his African heritage, he brought a different regional perspective to the issues we were working on at IEDC.”

Some of the most impactful aspects of Anagbonu’s internship could not have been deduced from the job description. Anagbonu cited his relationships with other interns from all corners of the world as an invaluable part of his experience, for instance. He said he hopes to keep in touch with many of them. Living in D.C. also had its perks.

“There are so many opportunities in D.C., including people who really know about their fields and know what they’re doing.” Anagbonu said. “There is also a lot of excellent international food, and people from all over the world.”

Ultimately, Anagbonu said he most valued the internship’s contribution to his education.

“There is so much to think about when considering economic development, and I now have a lot of exposure to most of these considerations, such as workforce development and resiliency, real estate development and more,” Anagbonu said.

Anagbonu hopes to go on to get his PhD in economic development.