University of the Fraser Valley

Research Excellence 2023: Dr. Edward Akuffo finds joy in balancing mentorship, research, and teaching

Research Excellence 2023: Dr. Edward Akuffo finds joy in balancing mentorship, research, and teaching

Dr. Edward Akuffo, the 2023 recipient of the UFV Research Excellence award.

Dr. Edward Akuffo first encountered Canadian foreign policy in the late 1990s when he was completing his undergraduate education in Ghana. After seeing the work that the now defunct Canadian International Development Agency was doing under the leadership of John R. Schram (the retired diplomat and former Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana), his curiosity was awakened and he wondered why Canada would spend its tax dollars far away in local communities in Ghana. He knew he was interested in learning more.

Fast-forward 24 years and that initial interest has driven Akuffo to multiple achievements: he has single-authored the first ever book published on Canadian foreign policy in Africa, a book that can be partly credited for the engagement of Canada with Africa’s regional organizations, and the recent establishment of full diplomatic relations with the African Union. He has served as president and vice-president of the Canada Branch of the International Studies Association between 2019 and 2022, and was the director and lead associate of UFV’s Centre for Global Development, as well as serving as chair of the UFV Political Science department.

For Akuffo’s achievements and success stemming from his passion and interest for research into foreign policy, he is this year’s recipient of UFV’s Research Excellence award.

For Akuffo, it is the impact his work can have on the bigger picture that motivates him.

“Research really defines society,” he says.

“The more we study relationships, the more we produce new ideas which we can translate into policy. My hope with doing research is that it’ll lead to transformation not only in the classroom but also in the world.”

Colleague and nominator Dr. Scott Sheffield noted that Akuffo’s research has a global impact.

“In the policy realm, Canada’s government is initiating a process to develop a more coherent policy for the African continent, and Dr. Akuffo’s name is on Global Affairs Canada’s list of experts for consultation,” Sheffield notes.

Canada isn’t the only government that values Akuffo’s expertise. Sheffield notes that the German Embassy in Ottawa also reached out to Akuffo for similar advice when Canada announced the crafting of an African strategy.

“Dr. Akuffo and his research have had important and constructive impacts far beyond his academic discipline, and again demonstrate both national and international recognition.”

On top of being a world-class expert in his field, Akuffo is also an engaging and highly regarded instructor, often mentoring students with aspirations to pursue graduate studies or law.

One such student, Adam Magalhães, expressed his gratitude in a letter supporting the nomination.

“I was blessed to have been nominated for the Undergraduate Research Excellence Award for a research paper I wrote for Dr. Akuffo’s Global Security course. He has been very generous in giving me his time to discuss plans for my future. He never fails to encourage me, suggesting avenues for publishing my paper and for attending conferences I can present at.”

A former student and now an adjunct professor in the Political Science department, Dr. Colter Louwerse, credits Akuffo for leading him to his doctoral research.

“His high-level seminars exposed me to a calibre of academic thought, literature, and discussion not usually available at an undergraduate level, providing me with a firm foundation for participation in post-graduate research.”

For Akuffo, it boils down to what brings him joy.

“It’s something I love. I really love helping students succeed. I’m proud of the students I’ve mentored. I love being able to directly interact with my students and have conversations with them about courses and current events.

“It puts a smile on my face coming to work because you create personal relationships with colleagues, students, and senior administration. I love the sense of community here.”