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An Arts and Science Head of State

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Abdiweli M. Ali, MA’88

Abdiweli M. Ali, MA’88, has been named the prime minister of Somalia, the first College of Arts and Science alumnus to serve as a head of state.

Ali was appointed the acting premier of Somalia’s transitional federal government in June after then-Prime Minister Mohamed A. Mohamed resigned. Soon after, Ali was named permanent prime minister and then overwhelmingly approved as prime minister by Somalia’s parliament.

A Somali native, Ali came to Nashville in 1986 for Vanderbilt’s esteemed Graduate Program in Economic Development. He spent two years in the College of Arts and Science, earning his master’s degree in economics before returning to Somalia to serve in that country’s ministry of finance and revenue.

Ali also holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard and a doctorate in economics from George Mason University and was a fellow in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Most recently, he taught economics at Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y., before returning to Somalia in late 2010 as minister of planning and international cooperation.

“I owe a lot to Vanderbilt University and it helped me at a critical juncture in my life,” Ali wrote to his friends at GPED. “I am eternally grateful to all the faculty and staff members who kept me close and gave me a great opportunity to learn, grow and become the person I am today.”

In one of his first policy initiatives, Ali appointed a national committee to tackle the severe drought affecting large parts of the eastern African country; approximately 11.5 million Somalis are suffering from famine. Other challenges he faces include leading a country affected by civil war, militant terrorism, piracy, religious conflicts, lawlessness and political uncertainty.

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