MONROVIA, Montserrado – Amid its dream of meeting the development capacity needed for Liberia, the African Methodist Episcopal University has unveiled several new academic expansion programs.
AMEU, in partnership with Ghana Technology University College, recently launched its graduate school. The program offers graduate degrees in divinity, an Executive MBA in finance, and an Executive MBA in procurement and supply chain management.
AMEU is the only institution in Liberia currently offering a graduate degree in procurement studies. The United Methodist University had earlier launched a procurement studies major, but at the undergraduate level.
The university’s president, Joseph Isaac, disclosed in a Bush Chicken interview that while the construction of a graduate school building is ongoing, the university has made adjustments in providing spaces in the undergraduate programs to temporarily run the graduate school activities.
“It’s a very nice big conference-style learning space that we created. What’s different about it is the setup and it’s high-tech,” he said. “Each student has a microphone in front of them, and the conversation goes on as if you’re in all ballroom. That’s the type of learning we are developing for our graduate programs.”
He said the development of an academic curriculum for the university’s international relations studies program with tracks in development practice and foreign service leadership is also currently underway.
“We want to be able to provide training for those diplomats that the Liberian government sends out and those that are aspiring to become diplomats, or not just that, but working in international fields, including the United Nations and other international organizations,” he disclosed.
The university has already received commitments from retired diplomats who will be working on the international relations curriculum, Isaac revealed. AMEU will be the only institution currently offering graduate studies in Foreign Studies; the Liberia Foreign Service Institute at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is currently the only foreign service program in the country, provides only a diploma.
Isaac also disclosed that after more than two decades of simply offering undergraduate degree in biology as a general course, AMEU is also now working to develop baccalaureate degree programs in biomedical science and environmental biology with a public health concentration following the launch of a full science college in January of 2017.
“The dean is working very hard to recruit students for the science college. The last time I talked to her, at this point now, she has got about 30 students,” he noted. “Her goal is to cater to 40 students, but I think she’s going to get more than 40 students.”
Isaac said he is happy about the concentration of the program, particularly because of the issues the country faced during the Ebola outbreak.
The epidemic increased the focus on public health issues. Already, the University of Liberia’s President Ophelia Weeks has disclosed a plan to launch a graduate studies program in public health. Isaac said AMEU would become a feeder institution for the state-run university’s public health graduate program.
The AMEU president also announced his administration’s pleasure over the launch of a full degree program in social work.
“We have a lot of social work professionals in Liberia, but they are not trained to the bachelor’s level,” he said.
According to him, a higher-level training in social work is important because the impact of the country’s civil war has continued to affect people, in addition to the fact that Liberia is a poor country with many social issues that must be addressed.
Like the University of Liberia, Isaac said AMEU is also partnering with the Savannah State University on the launch of the social work program.
In a related development, the AMEU president disclosed that enrollment at the university has increased by five percent from the last academic semester. He disclosed the current enrollment is at 4,636, with females constituting more than 50 percent.
Prior to the launch of the graduate degree programs, AMEU had operated the Bryant College of Theological Seminary, Manning College of Business and Public Administration, and the York College of Liberal Arts.
Isaac committed to raising the quality of learning at the school by bringing aboard talented faculty and administrators.
In the next five years, the AMEU president said he hopes to have graduated at least five cohorts of the graduate programs, expand the university campus, and physical infrastructure.
“For example, the church gave us five buildings. We are designating those to the five colleges. They’re small buildings, but we will use them as office space for each college so that we can depopulate where the classes really occur,” he said.
By next year, he said the university is moving its library to a bigger building, three times the current library’s size. He said the facility would also include two computer labs for learning, and a writing lab, among others.
According to him, the university’s efforts to rebrand itself has paid off by attracting high enrollment, with an increase of 44 percent between 2013 and 2017.
Under the rebranding efforts, Isaac said his administration has created different services that have contributed to improvements in the quality of learning. Some of those efforts, he said, include increasing the number of computer labs from one to five.
Isaac credits partnerships with other universities and colleges across the world as instrumental in contributing to AMEU’s fast growth.
“The type of partnerships we get are for the most times [are] institutional partnerships with other universities. They’re primarily not financial in nature; it is where we get to share ideas and we get to exchange faculty and exchange students. So, that helps us to build on our best practice, but in terms of financing, most of it has been coming from the university itself and the church,” he noted.
“We have a very good bishop who has been doing fundraising for us.”
In 2015, the university also launched its College of Education, initially focusing on early childhood education. The college emerged as part of a dream of the university’s board of trustees to respond to Liberia’s educational needs.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah