UMB Collaborates with University of Liberia

UMB Collaborates with University of Liberia

Felicia Whatley

Administration and faculty from UMB and the University of Liberia (U of L) are working together to swap information and research in an exchange program. Faculty will offer online classes, but the exchange will not be limited to the Internet.

University of Liberia’s Associate Professor and International Relations department Director Jonathan Taylor visited UMass Boston on September 16, 2009 to discuss not only video conferencing, but also internship opportunities for UMB students and faculty.

“Help is on the table for a country affected by civil war. The university was [partially] destroyed and faculty were killed,” said Taylor.

The University of Liberia is government funded and offers an undergraduate program, graduate school, and three professional schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Law.

“The immediate need for the University is for faculty and curriculum development. The (UMB) Center for Democracy and Development, working from the priorities outlined in the University’s strategic plan will try to link up the University of Liberia to programs here at UMass,” UMass BostonAssociate Director for the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) at the McCormack Graduate school, Michael Keating, said in an interview.

Over 17,000 students have enrolled at The University of Liberia this year, and due to this overload they could not accept new students this semester. Their International Relations graduate program has 125 students, despite economic hardships and limited resources.

“The teachers are still getting 1980’s salaries, most of the [federal] funding goes to the primary schools, and books are hard to come by,” said Taylor.

The war had a direct affect on the University of Liberia, Taylor said. Soldiers came into the university in 1984 and in a violent attack many students and faculty lost their lives.

“Liberian civil war brought lack of opportunities [for the people], poverty, and a struggle for power and control of resources,” said professor Taylor.

During the course of the 15-year civil war, the University’s physical plant was heavily damaged, but more importantly there was a brain drain of qualified faculty and staff. “Science and engineering programs have almost nothing of the way of equipment. The libraries have no books, and the students have no access to computer resources,” said Keating, who has been working on State Department grant-funded projects including one for the World Bank in Liberia to assist the University of Liberia for the past three years.

“In August of this year I was asked by a Canadian organization called Academics for Higher Education in Development to work with the new President of the University of Liberia, Dr. Emmet Dennis, on a strategic plan for the 2009-2014 time-frame. This project was funded by the McCall-McBain Foundation of Geneva and was carried out along with Dr. John Waterhouse the former Provost of Simon Fraser University in Canada,” said Keating.

The CDD is planning to put together a summer program at the University of Liberia in July of 2010. Scholars from all over the world will be invited to Monrovia for several weeks for student oriented seminars and faculty development workshops.

“We see our role as policy makers preparing people for international relations serving in the government. We have the ability to affect policy in the international arena. There are ways to collaborate a partnership. It is a chance to make a difference in Africa and the in world,” said Taylor.

The Center for Democracy and Development is trying to work with donor agencies in Monrovia to rehabilitate some existing structures to provide safe and affordable lodging for visitors.

“The CDD is also exploring ways of linking U of L to other universities via video conferencing, web conferencing and online courseware. The problem for the University of Liberia is financial. They simply have no spare cash and the government is unlikely to increase its allocation. Therefore, very creative and inexpensive solutions have to be sought,” said Keating.

“The bottom line is that all of Liberia’s development agenda and desire for self-sufficiency will come to nothing unless the society can turn out a high number of qualified professionals, managers, bureaucrats, scientists, and entrepreneurs,” Keating said.

Anyone who might be interested in getting involved at the University of Liberia should contact Michael Keating at [email protected]