BANGOR, Maine — Like most of his 40 or so classmates who will be awarded Master of Business Administration degrees from Husson University on Saturday, Mama Sora is looking for a few good investors.
The only difference between Sora, 26, of Bangor and other graduates is that he is seeking out entrepreneurs to invest in ventures in his home country — the Republic of Mali. He will return home next month to work for the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce.
“Because everything is global now, there are more opportunities for investment in countries like Mali,” he said Tuesday at his home in Bangor, where he lives with his wife and son. “If I can help open markets [at home] with U.S. investment, both countries will benefit.”
Sora is representative of Husson’s future graduates, according to Ronald Nykiel, dean of the College of Business.
“One of our goals is to have between 20 to 25 percent of our students be international,” he said Thursday. “Having that kind of global perspective is wonderful.”
Sora is one of 98 students on Husson’s three campuses in Maine who will earn the first MBAs awarded by the university, Nykiel said. The MBA replaced the Master of Science in Business degree last year.
“The MBA is one of the most sought-after degrees in business,” Nykiel told The Associated Press last year. “The business faculty have extensive experience in industry and academia, which results in a contemporary and relevant learning environment.”
That’s what Sora was seeking when he arrived in the U.S. in November 2005. He had never heard of Maine or Bangor or Husson. Sora learned about the university and its reputation as a business college from a friend of his father’s. Amadou Sora is an adviser to Amadou Tomani Toure, Mali’s president. After a conversation with Paul Husson, whose father founded the school, Mama Sora decided to enroll.
“It was so cold when I arrived and it was snowing,” he said. “I went to Atlanta for intensive English studies, then returned.”
He was not alone for long.
Tina Sora, 26, a native of Calais, was attending the University of Maine at Augusta’s Bangor campus when she met her future husband during his freshman year.
“He was a friend of a friend of my roommate,” she said Tuesday. “We fed him supper and he just kept coming back.”
The couple married in June 2006. Their son, Kenyon Amadou Sora, was born the next year.
Mama Sora said that juggling school, work and a young family had been “very, very hard, but it was a good experience. It made me stronger.”
He also said that it was his wife’s strength and support that kept him from quitting.
Mali is a landlocked nation in West Africa the size of Texas and California combined with a population of nearly 13 million, according to the U.S. State Department website. The northern section of the country, which borders Algeria, is covered by the Sahara Desert. The southern part, where the capital, Bamako, is located, is tropical.
“Everyone has heard of Tombouctou,” Mama Sora said, referring to what often is spelled Timbuktu in English. “Well, it is not nowhere. It is in Mali.”
Mama Sora said there are no particular businesses he would like to lure to Mali. Tina Sora, however, said the one American business she would like to see open in Mali is a Dunkin’ Donuts.
“There are many teashops, but I’d really love to be able to get an iced coffee there,” she said.
The family visited Mali two Christmases ago, Tina Sora said.
“Everyone was very, very welcoming,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to be so welcomed. In the evenings, all the neighbors come outside, drink tea, socialize and even play music. We live in an apartment complex here and I know faces but I don’t know the people who live here. There, neighbors are like family.”