Like other institutions of higher education in Liberia, Cuttington University is facing serious financial challenges. To address these problems, the nation’s oldest private university has announced several major innovations.
As noted by Dr. C. Patrick Burrowes, Cuttington’s new Vice President for Academic Affairs, “We have lots of challenges, but we cannot sit without finding solutions to them.
“Working with our deans, faculty, and others at our Suakoko campus, we have decided to initiate several academic innovations. When these initiates are fully rolled out next academic year, we believe they will enhance the learning environment and help to address our financial challenges.”
Burrowes is a seasoned academic who has worked at major American universities including Howard University and Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of numerous Liberian history books and widely published in scholarly journals. He spent 30 years researching and writing his most recent book, Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea: A History of the Liberian People Before 1800.
Dr. Burrowes added Cuttington University is in the process of launching three new centers for academic excellence. Dr. Burrowes further said the essence of the centers is to upscale the university’s revenue by conducting short-term training, data collection, measurement, and evaluation and applied research for government, funders and international organizations.
Already launched is the Center for Innovative Food Systems, which will address shortages in food storage, packaging and value-addition that are contributing to malnutrition and food insecurity.
The center, according to Dr. Burrowes is headed by veteran agriculturist Stanford Peabody.
“Two other centers will be soon follow,” he said. “One will focus on education and the other on health and human development.”
Another innovation the university is undertaking, according to Dr. Burrowes is to launch a comprehensive review of its undergraduate curriculum.
“Instead of offering programs that are available at other universities, we want to make sure ours are unique and programs in line with the current manpower needs of Liberia. We also want to structure our curriculum so that students can complete short-term certificates on their way to earning their bachelor’s degree, “Dr. Burrowes added.
Among other innovations, Dr. Burrowes said the University has implemented new record-keeping software in its Admissions and Records Office, Burrowes said.
“The new system allows students to register online without coming to campus. It will also reduce the number of steps required for registration and speed up the registration process,” he added.
Upon joining Cuttington in December 2018, Dr. Burrowes quickly recruited two popular young scholars to join the University’s distinguished faculty. They include Hawa Jande Golakai, an award-winning novelist and short-story writer, who has regularly featured at several international book festivals; and Othniel Forte, founder of the monthly literary event called Monrovia Reads and Forte Publishing Company. Forte now works with the institution as research warden and Golakai teaches English and literature.
“Hiring Golakai and Forte created quite a buzz. So, I am now getting calls from other scholars who want to join us. Stay tuned for news of other exciting hires.
To address declining revenue, Dr. Burrowes said that Cuttington is pursuing closer working relationships with government ministries and agencies to help with data collection, short-term training of employees, facilities for conferences and outreach to rural communities, especially farmers.
“Right now, we want mutually beneficial partnerships, not handouts,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Burrowes has urged members of the legislature to help Cuttington meet it nation’s goals through adequate budgetary allocation.
“The gap in higher education between Monrovia and the rest of the country is widening. With help from our legislators, we can help to close that gap. We are Liberia’s only university that is truly national in scope, with campuses in Suakoko, Kakata, and Monrovia. Our Bong County campus is near the center of the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Burrowes has disclosed that he start the implementation of a weekly movie night and a lecture series that have both proven popular with students.
“Lecturers so far have included Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Witterqvist, who spoke on her country’s feminist foreign policy, and Dr. Dougbeh Nyan, Liberian research scientist and inventor,” Dr. Burrowes said. “On May 15, internationally renowned Liberian scholar Robtel Pailey will speak on citizenship in Liberia.”