About the University of Liberia

The University of Liberia is a publicly funded university located in Monrovia, Liberia. It opened in 1863 as Liberia Arts College and became a university in 1951. The school is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in West Africa. Unfortunately, civil wars have disrupted and damaged the University over the past three decades. Since the end of Liberia’s most recent civil war in 2003, the country has entered a period of redevelopment, assisted by many governments, multilateral organizations, and NGOs.

The latest civil war inflicted huge damage on the University. Not only was its infrastructure destroyed, but many of its staff were either killed or forced to leave the country. Moreover, the entire Liberian educational system, from pre-school through secondary school, was similarly devastated. Schools were destroyed and teachers killed or driven into exile. The absence of a functioning educational system affected multiple generations of young Liberians. The University of Liberia is playing a key role in the regeneration of the school system and the country.

In 2009, Dr. Emmet Dennis, the President of the University of Liberia, asked AWB to assist the University in improving the remedial courses in mathematics and English that it offered to incoming students. This project involved upgrading the teaching skills of the faculty members who teach these subjects. The goals were to reestablish the University’s remedial program while also supporting student-led initiatives for a tutoring centre.

Training the Trainers I

In the summer of 2011, AWB volunteers Conzolo and Kara Migliozzi conducted a two-month program for remedial education instructors. Their focus was on pedagogy, classroom management, and assessment. The faculty members acquired new skills that have equipped them to better teach the incoming students, many of whom are ill prepared for university-level work.

Considering how devastated Liberia’s infrastructure was as a result of the war, it is not surprising that students entering college do not have the fundamental skills necessary to be successful… Developing basic mathematics and English skills is vital to creating a large pool of domestic talent with the academic capacity to become excellent primary and secondary teachers — and to qualify to enter the graduate programs that are being strengthened by Liberian institutions and international organizations.

– Conzolo Migliozzi, Volunteer

Training the Trainers II

The faculty members who participated in the summer 2011 project to upgrade their teaching skills found the program so rewarding that they asked that it be continued the following summer. For the second session, the faculty members asked for workshops focusing on mathematics and English that would incorporate teaching methods appropriate to these two disciplines. To fulfill the request, AWB sent three volunteers to the University in the summer of 2012 – Ree Migliozzi, Maryan Koehler and Emmett C. Dennis. Ree and Emmet are specialists in the teaching of mathematics and Maryan in the teaching of English to university students.

Training the Trainers III

In 2014, Brian Goodman conducted a series of eight workshops offering professional and educational development for the English Department faculty. These faculty members, who are responsible for teaching more than 17,000 undergraduates each year, have widely varying levels of formal education in college-level English subjects. The workshops focused on reinforcing instructors’ skills in those subjects.

A major goal was to emphasize critical thinking skills through increased attention to the mechanics of both reading and writing at a college level. For example, the work on reading skills, which employed both nonfiction and literary texts, moved from comprehension to evaluation and interpretation. Subsequent sessions addressed different forms of written argumentation, including persuasive essays, literary explication, and research papers. Finally, one session presented creative writing as a subject to be fruitfully incorporated into the English curriculum.

Between 30 and 40 instructors from the University participated in each of the eight workshop sessions. This group represented more than half of the English instructors. These instructors reported increased confidence in each skill area covered by the workshops; they all created plans to incorporate their new competencies into their classroom teaching. Thanks to this project, and to other ongoing AWB projects at the University of Liberia, thousands of students will receive improved instruction in the crucial areas of reading, writing, and critical thinking.

I want to extend special thanks to Mr. Brian Goodman for a job well done. He did extremely well by expanding our knowledge in the areas of Expository Writing, Creative Writing, Reading Strategies, etc. Addressing these topics is very timely and crucial for our students. I believe that AWB’s continual support over the past few years has been essential and has tremendously helped our department in meeting some of its enormous challenges.

– Austin Lablah, University of Liberia, Instructor, English Department

Outcomes

Faculty members are much better able to teach English literature, writing, and mathematics. As a direct consequence, their students are better able to do university-level work.

Anticipated Impact

There will be increasing numbers of better-educated students, who in turn will go on to become doctors, engineers, agronomists, and nurses able to provide the skills and expertise that Liberia needs for its development.

 

Date: 2011-2014
Volunteers:

  • Emmett C. Dennis, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut (Training the Trainers II)
  • Brian Goodman, doctoral candidate, Harvard University (Training the Trainers III)
  • Maryan Koehler, International Faculty Member, Regis University, Denver, Colorado (Training the Trainers II)
  • Conzolo Migliozzi, Educator, 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund, University of Massachusetts, Boston (Training the Trainers I)
  • Kara Migliozzi, Health Educator, Higgins Middle School Peabody, Massachusetts (Training the Trainers I)
  • Ree Migliozzi, Adjunct Professor of Mathematics, Holyoke Community College, Holyoke, Massachusetts (Training the Trainers II)