Not everyone can say his thesis made an impact on an entire country. Mpho C. Mophuting ’95 can back up that claim. Now a major general with the Botswana Defence Force, Mophuting’s topic for his 2003 thesis for his master’s degree at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, was “Expanding the Shield and Facing the Challenges: Integration of Women in Botswana Defence Force.”
At that time, Botswana was one of the few countries in the world (and the only country in the South African Development Community—SADC) where females were prohibited from joining the military. Mophuting’s thesis, which looked at the role of women in the U.S. armed services, Canadian Armed Forces, and the South African National Defence Forces (SANDF), helped set the stage for women to join the Botswana army in 2007.
At first, women joined the army as officers, Mophuting said. Then in 2015, the Botswana Defence Force began enlisting female recruits.
“I was able to see some sort of [thesis] payback,” Mophuting said, smiling.
Mophuting joined the Botswana Defence Force as a cadet officer. Following high school graduation, he was sent to Greece to serve and train. “I was about 20 years old, and I felt like I wanted to go to college next,” he said.
His superiors agreed, and offered to pay for his education if he attended a university in the United States, the United Kingdom, or Australia. “I wanted a place that was not cold,” he said. “I didn’t want a big university, and I wanted one a little bit away from town, and I wanted a Catholic university, too.”
Saint Leo was the perfect fit.
During his time at University Campus, he waspresident of the Black Student Union, which partnered with the University of South Florida to present famed poet, author, and actress Maya Angelou, and filmmaker and actor Spike Lee. He enjoyed the Catholic community of Saint Leo and often helped at the abbey and monastery. He played soccer for Saint Leo as a midfielder and sometimes as a forward, with current Athletic Director Fran Reidy as his coach.
Mophuting earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo in physical education and sport management with a minor in business management. Dr. Frank Arnold, now professor emeritus, and Dr. Michael Moorman, professor of computer science, encouraged him to pursue a business degree.
“Saint Leo was such a big springboard for me,” Mophuting said.
After earning a master’s degree in international security and civil military relations and an MBA with a concentration in supply chain management, Mophuting now is pursuing a doctorate in political science.
During a visit to Saint Leo in January—he had not been at University Campus in 22 years—he said he “jokes back home that the U.S. gave me a wife and a daughter.”
He met his wife, Kuki, who also is from Botswana, when she was a student at Alabama A&M University, and their daughter, Natasha, was born in Alabama. “We sent her to the United States for high school,” he said. She graduated from Northern Arizona University and began her graduate studies in 2017 in Hawaii.
Mophuting, 47, hopes his son, Kagiso, now in what would be the equivalent of his sophomore year, will attend his alma mater. “I want him to come to Saint Leo so bad,” he said. Perhaps a Mophuting legacy is in the works.