Analysis of the Pioneer of Higher Education in Liberia

By: Prof. Josephus M. Gray, PhD | Associate Professor |

Liberia prides itself in having one of the oldest learning institutions not just on the African continent but in the world as well, cherished with centuries of existence; in February  1862 Liberia College opened its doors to academic activities.As  the ‘nourishing mother’ of the higher education in the country, the Liberia College having never been out of operation, holds the title of the 4th oldest college in Africa and first in the republic.

The Liberia College (College of Social Sciences and Humanities) was founded on an agenda of social responsibility to the Liberian Society and the world to provide educational access   the nation and other nationals across the globe.

This agenda has served the College and the nation well since 1862. The canons behind that agenda have become an integral part of the philosophy of the University of Liberia. At the college, high premium is placed on academic freedom while students receive a top quality education, faculty and students are equally held in an orbit of high standard. Interestly, Liberia College has flourished for over 150 years, and is widely regarded among Liberians as an academic powerhouse, numbering at the top in a range of colleges and universities classifications in Liberia and also strives to be among the most innovative academic institutions in the world.

This instructive article provides overviews and progress of the college, and begins with a look at the programs that the college is pursuing in correlation with the University’s goal as part to continuous improving quality learning environments, research and quality education.

Interestingly, for the first time in the nation’s history, the current generations of students enrolling at the University of Liberia are educated as relates eLearning Moodle platform, which served as an added advantage for the students during the heat of the coronavirus. This article  also discussed holistic broad-based areas of great interests that enable students of the university to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to achieving their specialized goals, improve the productivity, to prepare them for the job market have them imbued with the inspiration of job creation, and service to their communities. This account further provides faculty demographic and data analysis, and delved into academic activities of every departments, and detailed achievements, challenges and prospects.

The historical overview also gives its conclusions and makes several recommendations for improvement in other areas. Liberia college was established by the Liberian Government barely fifteen (15) years after the Independence of the Republic of Liberia. The college is historically the fourth oldest college on the African continent, and the oldest in the Republic of Liberia dating far back to centuries ago.

For over 150 years, Liberia College has withstood the test of time as one of the best colleges in the areas of academic excellence, research, quality teaching and creative thinking in which all scholarly works are cherished and promoted. In 1951, Liberia College and the William V. S. Tubman Teachers’ College merged to form the University of Liberia through the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia (TDEL), based in the United States of America.

The Liberia College is located in Fendall, Louisiana, Montserrado County, Liberia. Without doubt, the college is  one of Africa’s oldest colleges, and the second oldest institutions of higher learning in West Africa. Through the farsighted and illustrious leadership of Prof. Dr. Julius S. Nelson’s administration, the current faculties of the college are comfortable,  teaching and learning through the use a model that meets the needs of students and  faculty with integrated edtech tools that address blended learning, professional development, career development, the learning gap, social emotional learning, flexible scheduling, and attendance.

Besides, the faculty use Moodle eLearning platform to carry out teaching and interactions with students.

During the second semester 2019/2020 Academic year, the entire faculty including the chairpersons and professors participated in dozens of  training circles including workshops, seminars and symposiums for effective eLearning teaching.

Over the last one-half centuries, the Liberia College has worked to build an institution with the adroitness to directly address the fluctuating academic challenges that the youthful population faces, and the college has grown over the century, has been powered by continuous revolution and ongoing efforts to improve and provide quality education and truth, research and enhance students’ creative thinking and approaches to contemporary situation through the application of quality education.

The history of the college provides overviews and progress, and begins with a look at the programs that the college is pursuing in correlation with the University’s goal as part to continuous improving quality learning environments, research and quality education. Interestingly, for the first time in the nation’s history, the current generations of students enrolling at the university are learning through eLearning Moodle platform, which served as an added advantage for the students. It also discussed holistic broad-based areas of great interests that enable students to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to achieving their specialized goals, improve the productivity, to prepare them for the job market have them imbued with the inspiration of job creation, and service to their communities.

This account provides faculty demographic and data analysis, and delved into academic activities of every departments, and detailed achievements, challenges and prospects. The historical overview also gives its conclusions and makes several recommendations for implementation.

The college opened its doors in 1862, marking the crucial period in the Liberian history with emphasis on education to ensure a sound and academically prepared human resource development; the nation, without over statement, indeed needed trained men and women to run its affairs of the state. Many believed that a tertiary education institution could accomplish this objective. It was this thinking that gave rise to the founding of the College. In 1862 the nation’s founding father, Joseph J. Roberts became the first president of Liberia College.

The college opened its doors in 1862, marking the crucial period in the Liberian history with emphasis on education to ensure a sound and academically prepared human resource development; the nation, without over statement, indeed needed trained men and women to run its affairs of the state.  Many believed that a tertiary education institution could accomplish this objective.  It was this thinking that gave rise to the founding of the College.  In 1862 the nation’s founding father, Joseph J. Roberts became the first president of Liberia College.

By all account, the first group of students was seven, three of them were recipients of the American Colonization Society’s (ACS) scholarships and the other four students met their own academic expensive. The first group of students was tested in Greek, Latin and Mathematics. The college without doubt, is one of Africa’s oldest universities, and the second oldest institutions of higher learning in West Africa. About 19,000 students are enrolled at the University of Liberia, and of that number, approximately 12,000 enrolled at the Liberia College with the Department of English and Literature enrolling roughly 10,000 students yearly. The college offers a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Mission and Vision

The mission and vision of the college are aligned with the University of Liberia. One of the world’s most ancient colleges, one of the college’s visions is to transform the way that the world is understood, how knowledge is created, and how problems are approached and solved including emerging problems. It also provides academic excellence, research, and teaching cardinally cherished and promoted, with the uncompromisingly imbued devotion on high premium placed on academic freedom, creative thinking, and ensuring that students receive a top-quality education, as faculty and students are held in high esteem and standard.

Presently, the college has a combined 212 faculty members of which 190 represent male faculties and 22 female faculties. The institutional faculty breakdown for the academic year 2019/2020 shows that 90 (45%) represent faculty members with bachelor’s degrees, while faculty members with master’s degrees constitute 105 (50%) and 11 (5%) doctoral degree holders.

The college’s statistics further showed that 93 male faculty members are holders of bachelor’s degree, 86 of the male faculty members are master’s degree holders and 11 male faulty members earned a doctoral degree. Of the twenty-two (22) female faculty members, three (3) earned only a bachelor’s degree and 19 others hold master’s degree. The 190 male faculty members, 94 members represent full-time faculty as 96 members stand for adjunct faculty. The faculty members are under the supervision of the Dean of the College, Prof. Dr.Josephus Moses Gray, PhD. He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations and Foreign Policy Studies with high distinction (Magna Cum Laude) from  CEDS University of Paris located on  37 Quai de Grenelle, 75015, Paris, France.

Established as a degree-earned college, the Liberia College which serves as a flagship college of the University of Liberia is regarded as an integral part the University. Since 1862, the college has traditionally served students pursuing a full, four-year undergraduate bachelor’s degrees in the most exceedingly respected professional academic disciplines.

The College assists students to stay in the institution and realize their full potential and pays close attention to the progression of students from admission to graduation. Liberia College owed its origins to the arrival of scholars and teachers from the American Colonization Society (ACS); the school has a global reputation of outstanding academic and quality teaching achievement, and serves as a diverse community where almost the entire students’ enrollment of the of undergraduates represents the 15 political subdivisions of Liberia.

Major Achievements

Bulks of the graduates of the college since its formation in 1862 have made tremendous contributions and sequentially are rendering their invaluable services to the various communities and societies across the international sphere with obvious outputs. Some of the alumni of the college went on to serve as president and vice presidents of the Republic of Liberia, ministers, senators, representatives, ambassadors, bishops, Speaker of  the national legislature, Foreign Ministers, deputy ministers, Commissioners, heads of public cooperation, standard-bearers of animated political parties, and religious leaders.  Others fruitfully moved onward to become presidents, vice presidents, deans, academic directors and chairpersons of the University of Liberia.  Currently, some of the graduates of the college are tremendously making contributions to the global society, and serving as engineer, pilot, lawyer, scientist, banker, auditor, professor, manager, politician, entrepreneur, judge, medical doctor, military officer, law enforcements officer, policy-maker, media tycoon, and research fellow, among other professional fields.

Other areas of achievements include the reopening of LUX FM 106.5 which serves the university community and the Liberian society with fair, accurate, balanced and objective broadcasting. Also degree granting academic disciplines has increased from nine (9) to ten- with the latest being the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies and faculty career development in the professional field of Moodle eLearning and the distribution of laptops. Besides, faculty members with master’s and doctorate degrees have increased compared others higher Institutions in the country.

Through the

farsighted and dynamic leadership of Dr. Julius S. Nelson, Jr. the current faculties of the college are comfortable and are teaching through digital education by using Moodle eLearning platform to carry out teaching and interactions with students. For the past 12 months, the entire faculty including the chairpersons participated in eleven (11) training circles including workshops, seminars and symposiums for effective eLearning teaching.

Administrative Management

The current President of the University of Liberia is Rev., Dr. Julius S. Nelson, Jr., is being assisted by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Prof., Dr. Moses M. Zinnah, PhD. The vice president is aided by deans. The University of Liberia is organized into academic and administrative units, with 39 academic units conferring degrees. The collages are headed by deans who are assisted by chairs as heads of academic departments.

At the institution, faculties typically hold the academic ranks of teaching assistant, instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and full professorship. The deans and chairs play dual roles both academically and administratively. Each College, graduate program and professional school has its own unique administrative structure in place.

Academic Departments in the college

The college hosts 15 academic departments. The current Dean of Liberia College is Prof. Dr. Josephus Moses Gray; he earned BA, MA and PhD Degrees in Commumication, International Relations and Diplomacy and Foreign Policy Studies. The  first Dean of the college was Prof. Anna M. Cooper. Dr. Gray is the 17th deans and by virtue of the College being the oldest college at the University of Liberia, makes the Dean of Liberia  College the doyen of the Deans of the University of Liberia, followed by the Dean of the William V. S. Tubman Teachers’ College.

Presently, there are 15 academic departments in Liberia College, nine (9) of which confer undergraduate Bachelor’s degrees in several academic disciplines. The Departments of Physical Education and Sports, and History are the oldest established units in the college, they were established in 1862. The Department of Sociology and Anthropology for now produces the highest number of graduates, as it has led in the number of graduates for at least the last four years. The Department of Sociology and Anthropology is followed by the Mass Communication Department, as the second-highest producer of graduates. In the third and fourth positions are the Institutes of Population Studies, and Department of Political Science. Other degrees granting units include the Departments of History, Geography, French Studies, English and Literature, and Social Work, the newest established Bachelor’s degree program, while the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies next academic year 2020-2021 will join ther other nine departments as a degree conferring unit.

Remarkably, the Social Work unit came into existence as a result of a partnership with Savannah State University in Savannah, Georgia, the United States of America (USA). The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies in the 2020/2021 academic year will begin the process of conferring Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies. The non-degree granting units include Physical Education and Sports, Liberian Languages, Social Science, Arts and Crafts and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). The College is the largest in terms of departments, students’ enrollment, workforce and faculties.

A Brief Profile of the College’s Dean

President of the University of Liberia, Rev., Dr. Julius S. Nelson, Jr., appointed Associate Professor Dr. Josephus Moses Gray, as the dean of the College effective February 1, 2020. Dr. Gray was among several proven academics and professionals appointed following a thorough and rigorous evaluation.

A scholar of international relations and foreign policy studies, He is an accomplished leader in the higher education which progressively reflects: quality teaching, research with emphasis on internationally recognized professor with a Ph.D. in International Relations. The dean’s motto: strict adherence to “Quality of Teaching and Zero Tolerance against Academic Fraud”. He is an Executive of the International Confusion Association and China-Africa Think Tanks headquarters in Beijing, China. Dr. Gray succeeds Associate Professor Sekou Konneh, was appointed Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs.

Professor Gray joined the university faculty team as an Adjunct Faculty of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida Graduate Program of International Studies, University of Liberia for three years and ascended to a full-time faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2018. His research interests are in international relations, political science and governments, geopolitics of Africa and the cure of riches, diplomacy, foreign policy studies, democracy and globalization, and governances. Dr. Gray, an author, diplomat and research fellow, is the Chief Executive Officer of the African Council of Think Tanks, International Studies and Applied Research. He also lectured international relations as associate professor at the University of Liberia Graduate Program of international studies. He also teaches at the Departments of Mass Communications and English and Literature.

His doctorate dissertation is entitled:” Effect of Diplomacy: Liberia, U.S., China’s Triangular Relation, while his master’s thesis was:” Assessing the Effect of the Liberian Civil War and bachelor’s thesis: The Impact of Liberian Media in Democratic Governance”, is instructive and detailed research. He has written and published three books: The New Geopolitics of Africa’s Oil and Energy”, Liberia’s Emerging Democracy, and “The Effect of Diplomacy”.

As wildly respected for his instructive researches and articles, Dr. Gray brings great experience in quality teaching and rising research, and also brings a commitment to research excellence, a commitment to teaching excellence, and innovation to the university community. The dean similarly has a profound vision for how the Liberia College can power the wider UL’s mission. He oversees over 75 graduate students’ at the University of Liberia Graduate School thesis and a PhD candidate’s dissertation in Australia, and leads a college of more than 200 faculty members, 96 bachelor’s degree, 105 master’s and 11 doctoral degree holders, and about 8,000 students.

Dr. Gray expressed his profound joy and excitement to be a part of the dedicated, committed crew, astute team member and a significant player in such a dynamic academic powerhouse reflective of a community of fountain sound knowledge, and looks forward to working with the unique faculty, staff and students. He was born in Harper City, Maryland County, but his parents hailed from the village of Kayken in Barclayville Chiefdom, Grand Kru County.

Dr. Gray doctorate dissertation was successfully defended before an academic jury of five French recognized academics including Prof. Dr. Faund Nohra, Associate Professor at Paris Dscartes and Academic Director of CEDS (Dr. Nohra supervised Dr. Gray’s dissertation) and Dr. Michael Strauss, Professor at CEDS University of Paris; Dr. Michael Lebedev, Professor at CEDS and Diplomat and Dr. Souha Akiki, President of Paris Graduate School and Professor at CEDS. Authored by Prof. Josephus M. Gray, PhD.

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About Cholo Brooks 14990 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.

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