A guest commentary by Cynthia L. Blandford, the honorary consul of Liberia based in Atlanta and the president, CEO and board chair of the University Consortium for Liberia.

Education will continue to be a key priority of Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf‘s post-Ebola recovery strategy. That University Consortium for Liberia initiative was launched in June 2009, by the Honorary Consul General of the Liberian consulate in Atlanta supported by the Liberian embassy in Washington.

In late 2014, the consortium was approved as a non-profit organization that is to work with governrment and our partners to provide scholarships and support for students to study abroad. It also is to paricipate in service learning and student exchange programs. That includes opportunities for research and faculty development and collaboration between international colleges and universities.

Twenty-one colleges and universities are partners in the consortium. Our vision is to help provide brighter futures through education and understanding.

The consortium is excited to announce that our partners have been very supportive in the rebuilding of Liberia over the past few years. Recently, the Georgia Institute of Technology signed a memorandum of understanding with LibTelCo and the Ministry of TelePost and Communications to provide a Center of Excellence in Communications in Liberia, as well as training, capacity building and support.

It is anticipated an ICT conference will be held in Monrovia, the capital, this December. Alabama State Unviersity signed a memorandum a few weeks ago to provide service training, study abroad and exchange programs for its students to study at the University of Liberia and for consortium students to study at ASU.

Savannah State and Clark Atlanta unviersities have offered acaddemic scholarships in chemistry and social work to three Liberian students. Tuskegee University sent students to A.M.E. University in Liberia last year for a study abroad program. The Carter Presidential Center provides mental health training and Ebola awareness and engagement.

Moreover, I was pleased when our partner, Georgia Gwinnet College, invited the Liberian ambassador to the United States, H.E. Jermiah Sulunteh, to be this year’s commencement speaker. In collaboration with the University of Liberia and the Ministry of Agriculture, the Unviersity of Georgia is exploring a model poultry production program in Liberai with a focus on women’s empowerment and a 4-H Youth program.

Kennesaw State University is focused on culinary and hospitality careers, to name a few. Morehouse Colelge is exploring a Leadership Academy at UL, and Morehouse School of Medicine is considering a collaborative health initiative with the Ministry of Education and Health.

In recent years, Liberia has compiled a proud list of accomplisments that include President Sirleaf – the first elected female head of state in Africa and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. With more than 10 years of peace, an educated workforce will become more important than ever before. And because of this priority, this fall 2015, Liberia will join the consortium in Georgia to celebrate and advance education in grand fashion.

We are pleased to invite our partners, stakeholders and friends to join us Sept. 26 on the campus of Emory University for our inaugural fundraising event. We will also be honoring outstanding educational institutions and busiensses that have given service to Liberia this past year.

With the support of the consortium honorary chair, Savannah State University President Cheryl Dozier for the next two years, we are excited about her leadership and look forward to great things to come. Dozier and her faculty met with President Sirleaf in Monrovia to discuss their homeland security and marine sciences interests with the University of Liberia and the government of Liberia.

This spectacular gala experience will boast traditional cultures, delicious cultinary displays and fashion spectacles. The mission and focus of the consortium will lead to the development of an educated and trained workfoce that is vital to the continued strides the country has made.

For more information regarding this event, please call 404-3565-1154 or e-mail cblandford@UCLiberia.com for further details.

This commentary first appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a guest column on July 9.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...

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