Annual Report 2011: International Development
Restoring Higher Education for Liberian Prosperity
Beginning in 2011, RTI launched a five-year U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)–funded project in Liberia called Excellence in Higher Education for Liberian Development (EHELD). As Liberia emerges from nearly two decades of civil wars ready to grow and prosper, EHELD aims to equip young Liberian women and men for careers as leaders, entrepreneurs, and valued professionals.
The EHELD team, led by RTI, includes the University of Michigan, Rutgers University, North Carolina State University, and Associates in Rural Development. To develop a capable and qualified workforce for Liberia, EHELD is creating centers of excellence at two universities—the University of Liberia and Cuttington University— to produce skilled male and female graduates in the high-demand fields of agriculture and engineering.
"Reinvigorated agriculture and engineering undergraduate programs can propel graduates into many available sector jobs and small business opportunities," according to Nate Bowditch, home office technical manager. Agriculturists will serve as Ministry of Agriculture extension workers and farm business entrepreneurs and will manage large-scale farming operations. Engineers are needed in iron mining, road and railroad construction, and electrical power.
To extend the effectiveness of EHELD, the project is reaching out to high school students to ensure they are prepared for college and to attract students—especially girls—to agriculture and engineering programs. Internships, service learning, and work study opportunities will build pathways to permanent job opportunities for students.
On the teaching side, EHELD is focused on strengthening the capacity of faculty at the universities through extensive degree training programs as well as short courses and mentoring in areas such as curriculum development, pedagogical techniques, use of computers, recordkeeping and fiscal management, applied research, grant writing, and monitoring and evaluation.
"By the end of the program, high-performing graduates from the centers of excellence will be far better prepared to respond to the economic and development challenges facing Liberia as it rebuilds its economy, physical infrastructure, social structure, and government institutions," said Bowditch. "EHELD will also have developed a model for the restoration of higher education that can be replicated throughout Liberia."