As she endeavors to ensure that the University of Liberia (UL) is ranked among the top 20 universities in West Africa, Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, 14th President of the University of Liberia, has been elected as Deputy Board Chair of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM).
Established in 2004, RUFORUM is today a consortium of 105 universities in 37 countries spanning the African continent. The organization evolved from the Forum on Agricultural Resource Husbandry (FORUM) program of the Rockefeller Foundation. It is registered as an International Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with an initial mandate to oversee graduate training and networks of specialization in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), but one that has expanded to include not only agriculture education, but research, information communication technology, and STEM disciplines, throughout Africa.
According to a UL release, Dr. Weeks was elected during the 6th Higher Education Week and RUFORUM Biennial Conference 2018, in Nairobi, Kenya. The forum, which took place from 22-26 October, was held under the theme: “Aligning African universities to accelerate attainment of Africa’s Agenda 2063.”
The conference brought together over 900 delegates of RUFORUM and other stakeholders in higher education and agriculture sectors (from academia, Government, private sector, Development partners, students and farmers) from across the continent.
The election of Dr. Weeks is a huge honor for the University of Liberia and for Liberia especially considering that the University of Liberia became a member of RUFORUM only in early 2018. Thanks also to Dr. Weeks for her recognizable leadership qualities, infectious personality and sense of style. Following a visit of the leadership of RUFORUM to Liberia in 2017 to request that former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf serve as a keynote speaker for a RUFORUM event, and to encourage the University of Liberia to join the forum, newly appointed Dean of UL’s William R. Tolbert College of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Moses M. Zinnah spear-headed UL’s membership application effort to its approval stage.
In her concept paper titled: “Top 20-in-7,” Dr. Weeks said her dream is to work very assiduously to ensure that UL is among the top 20 universities in West Africa in the next seven years.
While at the RUFORUM Biennial Conference, Dr. Weeks also attended the Forum of African University Women Vice Chancellors, (FAWoVC).
FAWoVC is geared to support existing women Chief Executives of African universities (Presidents, Vice Chancellors, Rectors) to enhance their performance in strategic leadership, leveraging partnerships, funds mobilization for STEM research, innovation and international cooperation. The FAVWoVC conference, which brought together women chief executives in African universities, was held on October 20, 2018.
In a related development, eight lecturers drawn from the William R. Tolbert College of Agriculture and Forestry have been awarded scholarships by RUFORUM, to pursue doctorate degrees in different specialized areas of agriculture and Forestry at various universities in Eastern and Southern Africa.
The lecturers, who are all full-time faculty of the state-run university, were each awarded a three-year scholarship by RUFORUM following a vigorous and transparent vetting of applicants that were recommended by the College of Agriculture and Forestry.
The beneficiaries of the scholarships are T. Arwailayah Freeman, William S. Kollie, Jr., Henry T. Nyuma, Sonnie Kesselley, Emmanuel M. Pope, Lovetta Gleekia-Kerkula, Jerry Yekeh, and Albertha Mulbah. They are to earn their doctorate in fields such as Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Plant Nutrition, Soil Fertility Management, Food Safety, and Nutrition, Crop Production, Horticulture Sciences, Forest Conservation, and Forest Ecology.
The scholarship beneficiaries will enroll in some of Africa’s outstanding universities, including the Makerere University in Uganda, the Stellenbosch University in South Africa, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya and the Copperbelt University in Zambia.
At another event, the President of the University of Liberia (UL), was recently honored by the University of Liberia Alumni Association in the Americas (ULIBAAA) for her farsightedness in rebranding the UL. She was honoured at the recently ended 3rd National Convention of ULIBAAA held in the United States in late October.
Dr. Weeks, who is also the 2nd female President of the UL, has overseen positive changes in overall faculty profile and commitment, as well as students’ satisfaction and performance since assuming the role of the presidency.