14 September 2017

Liberia: New UL President Starting Strong

editorial

The newly inducted President of the University of Liberia, Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, yesterday pledged to carve for the institution "a nobler destiny.

Delivering her Inaugural Address at the UL Fendall Campus, she said this "nobler destiny," an inspiring phrase she borrowed from President Edwin Barclay's immortal and beautiful anthem, "The Lone Star Forever," includes such attributes as "a sense of mission, perseverance, courage, pursuit of excellence, diligence, discipline, humility, integrity, compassion and perspicacity, which means vision and strategic thinking."

All of these noble attributes are what it will take Dr. Weeks to succeed in the execution of her new responsibilities and her vision, to take UL "to a nobler destiny."

She was very astute and forthright in her praise of her immediate predecessor, Dr. Emmett Dennis, who indeed found the UL in a complete mess when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called him to leader lead UL nine years ago. There was at the time a lot of corruption on the UL campus, especially in the Admissions Department, where students were admitted not on the basis of merit but money.

At one graduation ceremony during that period, it was belatedly discovered that a good number of the so-called "graduating seniors" had not completed the sophomore year. And many of these unscrupulous staff members were in cahoots with many of the students who were prepared to join in vigorous resistance to the new measures Dr. Dennis was trying to implement.

All of this was a clear indication that UL had, by that time, lost is mission as the nation's oldest and leading institution of higher learning.

A lot has changed in Dr. Dennis' nine years of leadership at UL. The admissions procedures have improved. And Dr. Weeks, in her inaugural address yesterday, paid tribute to Dr. Dennis for his capable leadership. This included considerable staff development, including over 60 with advanced degrees, many of them terminal.

All the UL faculty and staff understand what Dr. Weeks, their new president, means when she says she will lead with "a sense of mission, perseverance, courage, pursuit of excellence, diligence, discipline, humility, integrity, vision and strategic thinking."

UL's faculty, staff and students know that like Dr. Dennis, Dr. Weeks is a woman of an immense degree of discipline and experience. Dr. Dennis served for many years in top positions, including provost and vice president at one of America's leading universities--Rutgers. In her Inaugural Address yesterday, Dr. Weeks told her audience that as a trained scientist, she had spent 30 years at another leading US university--Florida International--which she thanked for seconding her to UL.

She has every intention of bringing most of her invaluable academic experiences garnered in the USA to UL, in a determined bid to move Liberia's preeminent university "to nobler destiny."

Accordingly, she outlined a number of plans in staff development as well as new and advanced academic programs. She will drastically reduce the number of first degree holders teaching at UL. She will within the next three-four years establish two graduate programs--a Master's in Public Health and a Master's in Environmental Sciences. UL will also introduce Bachelor's programs in Mechanical Engineering, Architecture and Information Communications Technology, Fisheries and an Honors College.

In partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA) and international partners, a Master of Public Health MPH curriculum is being drafted.

And working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Weeks said, UL intends to establish a Graduate Program in Environmental Sciences. Moreover, she is hoping that with the development of in country graduate programs, our science students will be able to pursue graduate studies right here in Liberia and be prepared to remain here and serve their country.

The new UL president also plans the establishment of an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Division in the TJR Faulkner College of Science & Technology.

UL is also planning a Fisheries Program in the College of Agriculture and Forestry.

These plans and more suggest to us that UL is off to a fresh and dynamic start under its new president. Seems determined to be just as visionary and dynamic as her sainted father, Dr. Rocheforte L. Weeks, whom President W.V.S. Tubman called to head UL in 1959 when she was only seven years old. It was Dr. Rochforte L. Weeks who took the initiative in 1962 to acquire the land and begin the development of the new Fendall campus.

Dr. Ophelia Weeks told her audience yesterday that neither her father nor her mother, Mrs. Eupheme Cooper Weeks, ever dreamed that their daughter would one day follow her father's footsteps to become UL president, too.

We congratulate Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks and wish her God speed in her great new assignment.

Liberia

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