Mark Brefo is a masters student in the philosophy of humanities. Mark grew up in Ghana, West Africa and received his undergraduate degree in psychology. Currently researching the political economy of Ghana under the supervision of Dr. Lincoln Addison and Dr. Jennifer Dyer, his study aims to illuminate on how free trade is collapsing local industries. He believes that state interventions in the economy will help revive the ailing manufacturing sector of Ghana. Mark has combined sports with education and has participated in World University Games and other international competitions. He was judged the best graduating sports personality in 2013
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
The quest to pursue my master’s degree ended at Memorial after carefully considering the tuition fees. I also wanted to study either in the United States or Canada for close proximity to relatives and friends. Choosing Memorial was heavily influenced by a close friend of mine who had undertaken his masters in political science here. He said a lot about Memorial, with the opportunities for me to explore and harness my skills and that convinced me to apply for MUN. I also knew I had a friend to help me adjust to the new environment.
What drew you to explore humanities originally?
Humanities as an interdisciplinary program brings diverse minds on board. Looking at the program structure, I availed myself to also learn from other academic fields. It was also an adventure for me, to start thinking for myself, be creative in looking at issues, which was quite a different educational curriculum from what I had been taught. My earlier education had been to study and present same information found in books when asked in tests and exams. Here in humanities, my task is to understand phenomena and apply in daily lives. Withal, to satisfy my curiosity, I do ask questions about behaviors to gain an understanding. What influenced this action? Why does he/she see things in this way? These are questions that I ask myself every day. And that was what the philosophy program was going to equip me to do; ask questions and seek facts.
Can you tell us a bit about your current research?
Unemployment is a big issue in my country Ghana and many other developing countries. One thing I always try to wrap my head around is why the country seems to be importing everything even though we produce the raw materials for most goods. For example, we import varieties of cocoa drink even though the country is the second largest cocoa producer in the world. Why can’t we as a nation process our own cocoa? Why are our local industries collapsing? My research seeks to explore how free trade imposed by powerful organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank are contributing to the collapse of local industries. Just as Alexander Hamilton postulated (“our industries are in their infancy hence they need state protection”) they cannot compete with multinational companies when the market is liberalized. My research measures the rate of growth during state and private investment eras. My work is not against capitalism, but I believe free trade is a means to lock many countries to agricultural production hence there is the need for the state to engage in productive activities.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor Dr. Jennifer Dyer bring to his/her role as your advisor and mentor?
Dr. Jennifer Dyer is among the lecturers I admire, and I understand now why she is the head of the department. Her in-depth knowledge of philosophy and gender studies coupled with her patience and easy-to-approach attitude of hers has kept me on track with the program. Jennifer recommends courses and other seasoned lecturers like Dr. Lincoln Addison to aid in my research. Jennifer knows what every student needs and she makes provisions to cater for all these needs. I wonder how she does that.
Have you attended any conferences/delivered any papers this year? Can you give details?
I have attended a couple of them. Had the privilege to attend one on food sovereignty here at Memorial. That was an enlightenment towards understanding why we cannot leave our economy in the hands of profit-seeking individuals. On February, 16, I streamed online in a conference organized by one of my peers at Concordia University on the 2016 African elections and the implications for future political development.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
I am the course representative on the Humanities and Social Sciences Graduate Council aiding in the coordination of information among graduate students, graduate officers, and the HSS faculty. I am also a member of the MUN soccer team, and I am proud to say I was part of the team that qualified for AUS Championship in 2015. I am also involved in helping my immediate supervisor in conducting research. I also volunteer with the Internationalization office.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
The opportunity to read on a wide range of subjects. Being a graduate student allows me to read widely and not be restricted to my psychology background.
What is the most challenging thing about being a graduate student at Memorial?
Time allocation with regards to studies, playing soccer, volunteering, research, and meetings can put you on the sick bed. You need mental toughness to excel.
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
I hope to get a job related to my field of study and contribute my quota in the development of the society. It is my aim to work administratively in the sports field.