SPIA in Africa is a unifying theme for our work this year. In May we were in North Africa. In October, we head to the east. And during the month of September—when our application opened, we were delighted to be visiting West Africa.
When we began strategizing about our Africa outreach, we mapped out the places where we have not traditionally seen a lot of applications from prospective students. One region kept bubbling to the top.
We looked at where we have faculty and staff expertise or networks. We assessed our alumni—their places of work, their networks, and their countries of origin. We thought about other ties that might bind Princeton.
One natural connection emerged with the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Center for Women and Development. In 2018 Johnson Sirleaf came to Princeton under the Leadership in Mentorship Program to discuss Post-Conflict Democratic Consolidation: The Liberian Experience. Johnson Sirleaf is renowned for her efforts to promote peace, reconciliation and recovery following Liberia’s decade-long civil war.
When we started talking to the EJS Center, it was clear that their energetic team member Kou Moore would help support a fantastic event. And did she ever. We were thrilled to meet so many qualified, interesting, and service-minded individuals at the EJS center event. Thanks for coming out.
Another natural connection was the President’s Young Professionals Program (PYPP), many of whom who joined us at our events including Executive Director Ciata Stevens d’Almeida. Thanks for your service.
We’re also thrilled to have our own James Kiawon in Monrovia right now with the Luminos Fund. James was kind to join our event and put a face to the process. He did a marvelous job outlining his own pathway to Princeton, via JSIand the ALA, and we are grateful not only that he joined us in Monrovia to speak about Princeton but also that he is both an MPA and JSI alum—a fantastic community member. James is also a pretty good soccer player. SPIA has its intramural reputation to uphold after all.
We enjoyed meeting fellows. We enjoyed our chats at the universities and with folks in government. And as I sit here and write from Princeton, I cannot help but smile when thinking back on the warm welcome we received in Liberia—the laughs and lighthearted moments shared over conversation, connection, and meals.
The seriousness with which so many approach their work is inspiring. The future leaders of Liberia we met gives us tremendous hope for the future. It also gives us hope that some of you will join us on campus over the next few years. Thank you, Liberia.