Prominent Liberian academic, activist and author Dr. Robtel Neajai Pailey has been named Assistant Professor in International Social and Public Policy at the globally renowned London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
An excited Dr. Pailey announced her preferment on social media early Tuesday morning while applauding those who helped to make her dream a reality. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without my amazing ecosystem of love and support, including God, family, friends, mentors, funders,” she wrote on her facebook page.
She disclosed, “When I rang one of my closest friends, Amy Niang, in mid-March 2020 to tell her that the head of the Department of Social Policy had called to personally congratulate me on being selected, she shrieked in excitement ‘WE DID IT!’ INDEED.”
According to her personal website, Dr. Pailey comes to the LSE with “more than 15 years of combined personal and professional experiences in Africa, Europe and North America, having worked across a broad range of fields supporting universities, governments, media institutions, multilateral, regional, non-governmental and community-based organizations.”
In 2017, she won an Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship to take up a position in the executive office of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The fellowship program, run by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, is designed to mentor future African leaders. After her fellowship at the AfDB, Dr. Pailey returned to the University of Oxford as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of International Development, a position that she held for two years before her LSE preferment.
In her professional career, Dr. Pailey has taught at various institutions in Liberia, Ghana, the United Kingdom and the United States, and her work has been published in academic journals, edited book volumes, newspapers and magazines. She completed BA degrees in African Studies and English Literature at Howard University, an MSc in African Studies at the University of Oxford, and a doctorate in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, as a Mo Ibrahim Foundation PhD Scholar.
With LSE on the horizon, Dr. Pailey lauded her parents for standing with her and starting what has become a successful journey.
“My mother and father, Ethel Neajai Johnson Pailey and Abraham Robert Pailey, did it with their sacrifices, prayers and libations,” she said, adding, “Mom kept reminding me that the long limbo between PhD completion and finding the right permanent academic job was God’s way of teaching me humility, patience and perseverance. Dad said our ancestors were moving mountains and straightening crooked paths to sprinkle my destiny with fairy dust.”
She also had kind words for some of her mentors who helped her along the way. “Professors Laura Hammond, JoAnn McGregor and Patricia Daley did it by writing stellar references, never once complaining that I was making too many demands on their time. And when I didn’t get the jobs I thought were ‘perfect’ for me, they encouraged me to keep reaching for the stars.”
As is often said, life without friends who should be there in times of need is not worth living and, as such, Dr. Pailey acknowledged some very supportive friends in her facebook post: “…Simidele Dosekun, Bukola Kpotie, Yen Pham and Gaby Balbuena did it by offering guidance during and long before the road to LSE recruitment—on everything from polishing my cover letter and CV to interviewing to negotiating salary and benefits.”
She also did not forget to mention the instrumental role funders like the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and Leverhulme Trust played by gifting “me a scholarly ‘room of my own’ to think, write and publish.” According to her, the LSE post has been bagged and she now intends “to use this incredible privilege to pry open doors for others.”
The announcement of Dr. Pailey’s preferment has been greeted with many commendations from her compatriots and international friends.
One such person is renowned Liberian economist Samuel P. Jackson who himself just gained admission into LSE. Jackson wrote on social media in reaction to his compatriot’s appointment, “Congratulations to Robtel Neajai Pailey, PhD, on her appointment as Assistant Professor at the world-famous London School of Economics and Political Science. I’m also deeply humbled to be a part of this prestigious institution. Bravo to my Bassa sister. I hope our paths cross in London. High noon tea. Bassa girls rock.”
Another person who lauded Dr. Pailey is Liberian statesman Dew Mayson. Mr. Mayson wrote on his social media page, “Congratulations, Dr. Pailey, on your appointment as a professor at LSE. So proud of you as a fellow Liberian. Your success is a reminder that amidst our difficulties and all types of sclerosis, there are Liberians who still manage to register success and make proud our people.”
He added that he was “delighted that you understand the need to open doors for other Liberians and not flaunt the myopic and quite unpatriotic bluff, so common among successful Liberians: I am (was) the only Liberian at this or that organization…Go ahead, dear Dr. Pailey. Register even greater achievements.”
According to the LSE’s website, it is “regarded as an international center of academic excellence and innovation in the social sciences and is ranked 2nd in the world for social sciences and management. The School regularly attracts leading public figures to give lectures, attend seminars and consult staff. LSE was founded in 1895 and joined the University of London in 1900. The School’s academic profile spans a broad range of social sciences and is renowned for studying real world issues, from economics, politics and law to sociology, anthropology, accounting and finance.”
Moreover, it “offers 40 bachelor’s degree programs, over 140 taught master’s and diploma programs, and PhD opportunities across the social sciences. Teaching and research are conducted through 25 departments and institutes and 23 research centers. Graduates can be found in senior positions in organizations and government worldwide. Alumni and former staff include 18 Nobel Prize winners in economics, peace or literature and 35 past or present heads of state.”
Dr. Pailey began her first day at the LSE on 1 September 2020 at which time her faculty profile went live.