My time at the 45th annual meeting of the Liberian Studies Association (LSA) was curtailed for personal reasons, but I greatly enjoyed myself over a period of just under 24 hours at Rutgers. I had attended the LSA once before (several years ago) and I continue to find the conference to be one of the more refreshing Africanist academic convocations in the US.
The LSA attracts an extremely diverse mix of academics, development practitioners, high-powered Liberian professionals, and more common folk who are passionate about Liberia. I met emeritus professors who have been interested in Liberia for forty years as well as graduate students pursuing critical research on refugee integration and energy use. In the short time I was there, this eclectic mix congealed to produce a passionate discussion on sexual abuse at Liberian universities (a topic that has received some attention lately). The President of Cuttington University, one of Liberia’s main universities was present for this challenge and although I don’t believe he was in the room at the time, the University of Liberia President (a former high ranking administrator at Rutgers) also attended the conference.
Based on the time that I was there, Rutgers should be commended for hosting a superb event (the fact that universities with a passion for Liberia host the conference as opposed to situating it in a generic conference venue also contributes to its refreshing nature). The opening night reception was held in the Zimmerli Art Museum, although I didn’t take much time to admire the collection, it provided a terrific atmosphere and was catered with delicious Liberian/west Africa food. One certainly got their money’s worth from the conference registration fee; I did not have to send any money on food in my time there.
Rutgers appears poised to be on the verge of extensively developing ties to Liberia. Emmet Dennis, the President of the University of Liberia, has deep ties to Rutgers and there is a Rutgers alumni association focusing on Liberia. Most importantly however, Rutgers spearheads a nearly 20 million grant from USAID to advance tertiary education in the fields of agriculture and engineering in Liberia (which intriguingly also involved a Ghanaian university as an implementer). Several student beneficiaries attended the conference and it was very rewarding to speak with them.
I realize that I’ve missed quite a few good Africa events in DC lately. I’d like to remind everyone that I welcome guest posts. I also hope to resume more regular coverage of DC think tanks events shortly as things settle down for me.
The LSA was not gaining most of the school’s media coverage over the weekend however. The crisis in their basketball program pulled media sources (below) with a much greater range than myself.