Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr.
Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr.

[Speech as prepared for delivery]

President’s Greetings
University of Liberia 101st Commencement Convocation
SKD Sports Complex, Paynesville City
Wednesday, March 3, 2021

 

Your Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, and Visitor of the University of Liberia;

Honorable Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia;

His Honor, Francis Korpoh the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court;

Members of the Legislature here present.

Hon. Matthew G. Zarzar, Chairman and Members of the UL Board of Trustees.

Honorable, Prof. Ansu Sonii, Minister of Education and Member Ex-Officio of the Board of Trustees.

The 101st Commencement Speaker, Dr. Alvin Nah Doe, Neurosurgeon.

Dr. Albert Coleman, Acting President of the Association of Liberian Universities.

Colleague Presidents and Special Representatives of the Association of Liberian Universities and Colleges.

Rev. James Lablah, Acting Director General, National Commission on Higher Education.

Your Excellency, the Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Distinguished Officials of Government Present.

The Acting President, Mr. Martin Pennie, Officers and Members of the University of Liberia Alumni Association,

My distinguished Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Liberia, Bishop Samuel J. Quire, Jr, and Madam Richlain Quire, other Prelates and the Clergy,

Dr. Muriel Victoria Nelson, my partner, spouse and friend and members of the Julukon Sarwolo Nelson Family.

The President and members of the UL Faculty Association and the President and members of the UL Staff Association

Mr. J Benedict S. Paye, Chairman of The Students Transitional Council,

The Valedictorian of the University’s Undergraduate Colleges and Valedictorian of our Graduate and Professional Schools, and Valedictorians of our individual colleges and schools.

Graduate Abraham Fokoe, Officers and members of the 101st Graduating Class “Meni Nina”.

Faculty, Administrators, Staff and Students of the University of Liberia.

The Backbone of the Graduating Class, Parents, Relatives, Friends and Well-Wishers.

Members of the Fourth Estate,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

Allow me at this time to welcome each and every one of you to this extraordinary 101st Commencement Convocation, the Meni Nina – an expression from the Kpelle vernacular meaning “New Beginning” of this Flagship State University, THE UNIVERSITY OF LIBERIA, the birthplace of multidisciplinary leaders.

This Commencement is extraordinary because it is the new beginning class 101 after the Centennial celebration. The graduands represent my first product of some major curricula transformation and some faculty development. It is also my first cohort of graduands from our celebrated college-based commencement.

Let me extend sincerest thanks and my profound gratitude to the 101st Commencement Convocation Planning and Implementation Committee for the great job they have done over the last six months. Thanks also to the UL Chorus, The UL Marching Band; The UL Police; and the Liberia National Police for the continual cooperation with the University of Liberia.

On behalf of the UL Administration, we are expressing our thanks to the Transitional Student Council headed by Mr. J. Benedict S. Paye, for steering the affairs of the student populace over the past academic year. Also, to the leaders and members of the Progressive Student Alliance (PROSA), Student Democratic Alliance (STUDA), Student Integration Movement (SIM), and the Student Unification Party (SUP).  My personal thanks to you for the level of engagements we have had over the last year, and the results that have come out of it as well. We believe that when we continue to dialogue over every single issue and intellectualize the debates, we will succeed in fostering a peaceful co-existence as we together work for the forward march of our “Lux in Tenebris”.

Let me extend profound appreciation to the UL Board of Trustees for successfully working along with the UL Administration in the governance of our Flagship University. I thank you ever so much.

Finally, my appreciation goes to our Alumni Association and its diaspora groups that have steered the affairs of the Association both at home and abroad. However, we are celebrating with mixed feelings today because one of our own, our former National President of AAUL, the late Mr. James S. Davis, II, who was also an active and well-organized member of the UL Board of Trustees. Mr. Davis departed this world on January 3, 2021. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? We can only say thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Mr. Visitor, Mr. Chair, Officers and Members of the Board of Trustees, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I would now like to pay homage to some members of the University of Liberia family who departed including three past presidents, during the course of the year. May their souls rest in perfect peace. They are:

Dr. James N. Kollie, Acting President -2004

Dr. Patrick L. N. Seyon – 1991 – 1996

Dr. Ben A. Roberts – 1999 – 2003

Other members of our family who passed are:

(1) Neikata J. Jackson, Instructor, Medical College,

(2) Johnson T. Flomo, Instructor, Management,

(3) Mohammed M. Kiawu, Instructor, Management,

(4) James Moses Lincoln, Director, Academicals/Bookstore,

(5) Ruth D. Ballayan, College Coordinator, College of Education,

(6) Deddeh Baysah-Antione, Executive Assistant, to the Vice President for Health Sciences,

(7) Balasiah Gbowee, Expeditor, Institutional Development and Planning

(8) Joseph J. Telewoyan, Secretary, Procurement Unit,

(9) Dr. Thomas K. Jaye, Executive Director, Liberia Institute for Policy Studies and Research,

(10) Samuel K. Duworko, Instructor, English Dept/Liberia College,

(11) Melvina S. Okech, Instructor, Home Science & Community Development/College of Agriculture & Forestry,

(12) Marcus S. Sokpah, Chairperson, English Dept/Liberia College, (13) George Popei, Teaching Assistant, Agriculture College,

(14) Christiana Kpao, Administrative Secretary, Dept. of Economics,

(15) John M. Beyan, Instructor, Geography Department,

(16) Charles Saygbeh, Instructor, Economics Department,

(17) Johnny Ward, Maintenance Officer, Plant Operations,

(18) S. Matthew P. Smith, Instructor, College of General Studies,

(19) Samuel Monger, Instructor, Management

(20) Obi Samuels, Instructor, Home Science & Community Development/College of Agriculture & Forestry.

(21) Our recent graduate Nancy W. Miller, of the A. Romeo Horton College of Business and Public Administration. She died along with seven family members the night after her graduation on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. (UL Chorus- All is well)

Mr. Visitor, Mr. Chair, Officers and Members of the Board of Trustees, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen.

On Thursday, 18th February 2021, we celebrated with fourteen (14) of our long servicing, dedicated and committed faculty and staff members who were retired. Their services range from nine (9) to forty-six (46) years. The longest serving honor went to Associate Professor Thomas A. Peters, of the A. Romeo Horton College of Business and Public Administration. We also celebrated the exceptional Alumni Homecoming Day of 19th February 2021. College-based Graduation were held from 22nd to 24th February 2021. An outstanding LUX –IN-TENEBRIS Honors Scholars Research Symposium was held on 25th February 2021. We also celebrated a total of thirty-two (32) faculty members who published peer-reviewed books, book chapters, journal and conference proceeding articles in the past two academic years (2018/2019 and 2019/2020). This is the first of its kind and will be implemented annually as a means of encouraging and motivating research and scholastic publications by members of the University family.

Today, we are producing 3,312 graduands at this 101st Commencement Convocation.

Just a few months ago, we made history by conducting UL’s first E-Learning program that ended the second semester of Academic 2019/2020, which has allowed us to gather here today under normal circumstances. But normal has become a rare commodity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank the many professionals whose expertise and hard work made this possible.

Making the sudden transition to E- learning for the last mile of our academic year 2019/2020 was a significant –and I know throbbing — adjustment. While I’m gratified at how well you’ve handled this challenge, I am not surprised. When UL is confronted with big challenges, we don’t throw up our hands. We roll up our sleeves to look for solutions. Your appetite for challenges as students — and now, as graduates-to-be — will be a priceless asset in the years ahead.

This 101st class is proud to be associated with the following:

  1. The first class to experience our E-Learning program when we were constrained to fast-track our digital approach due to the pandemic in 2020-Mini-Nina
  2. 57% of our graduands are males, while 40.43% are females-Mini-Nina!!!
  3. We have majority female than male graduates in the Liberia College with 235 females and 203 males.
  4. The first convocation with predominantly youthful guest speakers, signifying the ‘New beginning’ of another century in academia-Mini-Nina!!!

 

Mr. Visitor, Mr. Chair, Officers and Members of the Board of Trustees

We are pleased to report to you some of our major developments for the past academic year. They include:

  1. Restructuring of the Senior Management Team to conform to our vision and developmental agenda for the University. Areas affected include Academic Affairs, Administration, Student Affairs, and Institutional Development and Planning.

 

  1. Curriculum Review: wherein several reviews were implemented, and the curricula of various academic programs were done including the following:
  2. Revised BSc Junior High Secondary Teachers Education in Science, Math, English, and Social Studies
  3. Revised BSc program in Forestry
  4. Separation of Mining Engineering and Geology
  5. Revised Associate Primary Education and Associate Agriculture Science (Sinje)
  6. Revised BBA, BSc, and BPA programs in Accounting, Economics, Management, and Public Administration

 

  1. The initiation of New Academic Programs that led to the establishment of the following degree granting programs:
  2. BSc in Organic Chemistry
  3. BSc in Analytic Chemistry
  4. Department of Computer and Information Sciences (DCIS)
  5. BSc in Statistics to be supported by the World Bank and the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS)
  6. BSc in Biomedical Science, Biochemistry, Microbiology
  7. Department of Architectural Science

 

  1. The completion of the development of the Fendall Land Strategic/Master Plan and a five-year roadmap, to be used for the development of the new University City situated on the 5,800 acres of land in the Fendall Louisiana Township, Montserrado County. We are working with the Liberia Land Authority and our people in Fendall to find a common ground to live together in peace.

 

  1. We have planned and implemented for the first time a Special E-Learning Semester which became significant and imperative due to the lockdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Impressively, more than 14,000 of our students registered and participated in this initial undertaking. Going forward, we will continue our programs using the blended learning approach including E-Learning and Face to face at the University of Liberia

 

  1. The establishment and renewal of Partnerships with two local institutions, two regional Universities, and six International Academic Institutions. All intended to foster collaboration through mutual support, faculty, staff, and students exchange programs, amongst others.

 

  1. We have implemented the Re-structuring and staffing of Liberia Institute for Policy Studies and Research (LIPSR), to guide and support the kind of research and proffer policies intended to ignite quality research, resource generation, consultancy, and direct the actions and performances of the university of Liberia to our national pro poor agenda for prosperity and development(PAPD).

 

  1. The Reopening of LUX Radio with a new frequency of 106.5, and a license to operate issued by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), so that the general public can have the requisite information and awareness of the dynamic programs and activities of the Flagship State University, as we continue to transform and impact the larger society.

 

  1. The Reassessment and Realignment of the Graduate Programs to undergraduate colleges in conformity to best practices in the world.

 

  1. The Reconstitution of University of Liberia Institutional Review Board (UL-IRB), which is the ethical board responsible to approve, monitor and review biomedical, sociological and behavior research in which humans are used as subjects with the aim of promoting the rights and welfare of research subjects.

 

  1. First in the history of the University of Liberia, Our School of Pharmacy produced hand sanitizers for public consumption. Some of these sanitizers were given to institutions like the Office of the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia upon request, the Ministry of Health, the UL family and others.

 

  1. UL, for the first time, made a Committal on the Decade of Action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at the observance of the 5th Anniversary of this global development agenda. We are mainstreaming the SDGs in our various activities and events.

 

Mr. Visitor, Mr. Chair, Officers and Members of the Board of Trustees, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The University FY2020/ 2021 Budget amounts to US$18,851,375. The Government of Liberia’s contribution of US$16,300,000 or 86.47% of the budget represents the largest contributor to the University’s budget and comprises of salaries & allowance to faculty and staff, stipend to medical and pharmacy students and the free- tuition subsidy for Undergraduate Students.

Tuition & fees is the second major contributor to the budget and is quoted at US$2,325,225 or 12.33% of the budget. Other internal income was projected at US$226,150 constituting 1.2% of the budget and is a combination of other internal sources including the interest on the UL Endowment Fund, meager fees from transportation of students and income generated from auditorium and cafeteria usage.

Our over dependence on the Government’s subsidy during times when we are continuously creating new academic programs, increasing the number of our faculty studying regionally and abroad, couple with the pervasive need to continuously improve our existing facilities, is worrisome. This concern has prompted our drive to expedite the commencement of investment/business activities at the University. The contemporary module of financing tertiary education globally calls for the University to actively pursue profitable ventures with the aim of supplementing Government’s subvention. For this purpose, the University has identified various investment initiatives that have the potential of generating revenue to augment Government’s subsidy under the Lux Investment Corporation. Three of those projects are: The LUX Printing Press, the LUX Fountain (a water bottling company) and the LUX Insurance Company. Feasibility studies including business plans for each of these projects are completed and the Corporation has been dully registered. We are currently sourcing funding for these projects and have estimated the start-up cost at US$3 Million.

A startup of these investment initiatives will reduce the university’s over reliance on government’s subvention.

We wish to express our thanks and appreciation to the Government of Liberia led by the Visitor of the University, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, for the continuous support to the sustenance of the University, particularly with the timely and regular payment of salaries including during the heat of the covid-19 pandemic when we were all lockdown, as well as the continued budgetary support to the existing free tuition policy. Mr. President, we salute you, and want you to know that we remain forever grateful for your leadership.

Mr. President, members of the graduating class, ladies and gentlemen.

We are proud to announce that through various partnerships/scholarships, we have a total of eleven (11) faculty members who have returned from studies with ten masters’ degrees and one doctorate degree, this year in various disciplines. Two are females and nine are males. We also have a total of twelve (12) faculty members who left this past year for studies including seven (7) Ph.Ds. and five (5) Masters. To date, we have a total of forty-six (46) faculty members perusing studies abroad from 2015 – present, including twenty-three (23) doing Ph.Ds., twenty-one (21) doing Masters, and two (2) doing Bachelors.

Today, we wish to appreciate and congratulate all of our graduates. We are aware that the challenges have ranged far and wide for all including faculty, staff, administrators, students, and all. But we remain grateful to the Almighty God for the perseverance and discipline to remain focused until we reach this landmark of the 101st Commencement Convocation.

Members of this 101st graduating class – Meni-Nina,

It has been said, wisely, that the success of our society and our democracy rests upon our willingness to think of each other, and not only ourselves. My hope and expectation is that you will embrace this principle … That you will step up in your communities … That you will take on the solemn responsibility of leadership.

You are uniquely qualified to take on this special role. Your academic achievements have been combined with the tradition of civic engagement that goes to the heart of UL’s identity — a tradition so many of you has embraced directly.

Mark Twain advised that the secret to getting ahead is getting started. Your years at the University of Liberia have already gotten you started — with experience in your chosen professional fields and experience in being active citizens of Liberia and the world.

These are uncertain times in many ways. But I feel so much more confident about our future — simply by knowing that you, our graduates, will be part of it.

There is no script or manual for life’s journey. Wherever you go, go with all your heart. Stand up to your fear. Keep the focus for your dream. If opportunity doesn’t knock, create an opportunity for yourself and keep moving on.

Continue to play your role as you transition into the Alumni Association and give back to your alma mater as the years go by. Let your light so shine in Liberia, in Africa, yea, in the World.

Congratulation and God’s blessings

Long live our students!

Long live our 101st graduating class (Meni-Nina)!

Long live our faculty members!

Long live our Administrative Directors!

Long live our Chairpersons and Coordinators!

Long live our Deans and Academic Coordinators!

Long live our Senior Management Team!

Long live the Alumni Association!

Long live our Nation’s premier Institution of Higher Learning!

Long live the Board of Trustees!

Long live the Visitor and President of the Republic of Liberia!

Long live our Sweet Land of Liberty, the Republic of Liberia!

Thank you!

Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr.

15th President, University of Liberia

3rd March 2021