College of Business
College of Business graduate helping improve the lives of refugees
Maguy Diop works for the United Nations (UN) at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Dakar, Senegal. She plays an active role helping individuals and families in Africa enjoy a better quality of life free from persecution. A native of Senegal, a coastal country in western Africa, Diop earned her undergraduate business degree in financial economics and international business in 2016 and her MBA in 2019 from the Anderson University College of Business. She puts her business knowledge to work helping direct funds the agency provides while serving several countries in western and central Africa. The bureau in Senegal is responsible for a budget of more than $800 million for the region. The funds provide support for refugees entering a country or internally displaced persons, along with supplies needed to help improve their quality of life.
Tell us about how you got to Anderson University.
Through my brother. He actually went to school in South Carolina. I wanted to be in the same state as him, but I also wanted a small sized school, because I’m easily intimidated with big numbers of people and I wanted to study economics. So, believe it or not I Googled small schools in South Carolina and then found Anderson and I applied. The rest is history.
Coming from Senegal, what was it like adjusting to American Culture?
I think the biggest adjustments were with the language and the slang. I thought my English was pretty good until I got to Anderson University and realized it was not (laughs). My last years of high school were in an American school, and most, if not all, of my classes were in English. I thought I would be fine in a school where everybody spoke English because in my mind I speak English in class every day, so I’ll be fine. But then what I didn’t consider when going to the U.S. was that if I was stuck on a word in English, I couldn’t just say the word in French like I would do in class in High School because people would not know what I’m talking about and add the slang on top of that—it was a really big adjustment.
Thankfully, I got to Anderson two weeks before Moving In Day, so I was there with the athletes and the RAs. It helped me calm my nerves a little bit (laughs), because I feel like if I was there with everybody, it would be too overwhelming for me.
I remember when I arrived and met my RA, there was a point in the evening when they were going around the dorms and asked if I wanted to come with so I went. I lived in Pratt and Denmark at the time (freshman year); so we’re walking around the halls, I didn’t know what was happening at the time… I didn’t know what we were going to do but every time we would get to a certain area, we would stop… little did I know that they were praying for students that were coming. I’m saying this because I didn’t know that Anderson was a Christian school when I applied.
So, after we gathered at one of our stops when one of them (there were several RAs in the group) was done talking I turned to my RA because I kept hearing “Jesus, Jesus.” I remember asking her, “I keep hearing “Jesus” are you guys Christian?”
She said, “Yes. This is a Christian school.”
I smiled but in my mind I was thinking “this is a relief at least one thing I can relate with” but I didn’t know how to say that in English (laughs) so I stuck to the smile.
I also remember a story where the slang was just getting to me (laughs). I remember one night after we were done studying my friend and I, we were walking back to our respective dorms and she said something like “when I get to my room, I am going to shower and hit the hay right away” and in my mind l was thinking what is she talking about and so I answered “you’re going to hit the hay?” And she replied “yes.” And I was like “here?” Thinking in my mind why would she do that at almost midnight and plus where is she going to find any hay here around campus and she laughed and said it means “I am going to bed.” Needless to say that was my favorite thing to say for at least two weeks after that (laughs). I was like a sponge (laughs) soaking in every new word or expression I was learning.
Tell me about your interaction with other international students.
My freshman year, I don’t think I interacted that much with international students. I think that started my sophomore year. That’s when I got involved with the international student programs and Ann Themistocleous (AU Center for Global Engagement director) came in around that time and it’s when I started working in her office and started meeting more international students. In my junior year, I lived in the international house, and that was the best year. The house was just always open and folks were always there. They would just make food or come hang out and just that fellowship and learning about each other’s culture was everything. I had some of my best memories of college in my junior year and I met some of my best friends that year.
What were some of your favorite activities while at Anderson University?
I used to go to football (soccer) and basketball games a lot. Most of the international students played football—we call it soccer in the US (laughs), and so we’d go and support them. It’s a sport I enjoy watching. I would also go watch tennis occasionally because a lot of the Argentinians played tennis, and so I would go watch them play.
Tell me about your work.
I’m working at UNHCR, which is the UN agency for refugees. Our mandate is to help people who had to flee their homes because of conflict or political unrest.
I work in a team called the Regional Controller’s Team and I work in the budget section. We support in the monitoring of key performance indicators (KPI) and financial analysis and we do that through seasonal reports.
Africa is divided into three regions. We have West and Central Africa, Eastern Horn and Great Lakes and then Southern Africa. I’m in the West and Central Africa region and we cover 13 operations. We support them with financial analysis, and help them monitor their spending. We support with budget review, budget reallocations, memos of budget increases that we may have.
What gives you the biggest sense of accomplishment in your job?
Seeing a project through from when the need is expressed to funds being disbursed. I remember back in 2020, there was a crisis in the Sahel region and we needed to provide an immediate response and internally preparing and looking for funds to allow the concerned countries to urgently tend to the needs of the folks impacted by the crisis was an exercise that required some late nights and a heavy workload in a very limited time but persevering and seeing that project through was rewarding, especially when we received the funds all the hard work and the late nights were forgotten. It made it all worth it.
What are some ways your Anderson University education has helped you in your profession?
I majored in financial economics and international business and that helped me a lot in my job today. I’m currently working in budget and if today I am able to conduct and understand financial analysis, monitor performance or understand accounting principles, it’s thanks to the education that I was able to get at Anderson. Even though it was theoretical, it applies to the work, because accounting, for example, it’s the same. The basis of accounting is the same whether it’s at school or at work. And so that has helped me a lot in the work that I’m doing. Statistics as well.
Statistics held a special spot in my heart in college but I also had a very good professor, Dr. Gordon Smith, who made me love it and ironically I use statistics a lot in my work. When it comes to performance analysis, seasonal reports and looking at implementation activities etc. statistics is what I use to do all of those. Most of what I know today in that subject I’ve acquired in college.
What is it like working for a UN Agency?
Impactful … even though I haven’t had the opportunity to go into a refugee camp and meet refugees, the stories of hope I hear back make all of it worth it.
What career advice would you give someone wanting to go into similar work?
Be passionate. Lead with the idea that we are doing it to try to have an impact in the lives of folks. I think being passionate will make the late night at work make sense. It’s good to have a grasp of the basics of accounting and finance. It’s also important to have an acute attention to details.
Have you thought about coming back to visit Anderson University?
Absolutely! I miss AU, the people, the International Programs Office and all the activities… I would love to come visit. But let me tell you, when I come back, it’s going to be at a strategic time, around spring. I don’t know if Mrs. Whitaker still makes cookies for students for finals week— but if she does I’ll come back at that time just for those because they were amazing.
What are your favorite things to do in Senegal?
Road trips. I have discovered a love for road trips. I think it’s easy to live somewhere and not appreciate what the place has to offer. I have lived in Senegal my whole life and there were a lot of places I had never been to so I decided to discover my country. I went into the south of the country for the first time in January and it was amazing. There is this lodge I was in it’s in the middle of the Niokolo Koba National Park and from the restaurant with a long view you could see families of monkeys playing in the trees, and you’d see the different types of birds. Prior to going there we went to see waterfalls in Kedougou. I also went to do this thing called “Walking with the Lions” which was easily the most terrifying thing I have ever done in my life (laughs) but it was also one of the best experiences.