UL Graduates First Batch of Environmental Scientists, Technicians

Some members of the faculty and some of the graduates in a group photo

The University of Liberia (UL) on Monday, 21 March 2022 graduated the first batch of eight students that completed prescribed course work for graduation from the School of Environmental Studies and Climate Change (ESCC).

The School of Environmental Studies and Climate Change was established in 2019 through the instrumentality of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with funding from the Green Climate Fund.

The school, which seeks to promote and contribute to Liberia National Adaptation Plan (NAP) offers a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Science, Climate Change, and a Master of Arts Degree in Environmental Management.

Its focuses on developing a greater understanding of environmental disasters related issues of climate change and biodiversity.

Speaking to journalists at the 102nd combined commencement convocation of the University of Liberia Graduate and Professional Schools, Dr. Charles Ansumana, Director of School of Environmental Studies and Climate Change said that the graduation of the seven students is a milestone.

He said it is a clear manifestation of the level of work they have done since the inauguration of the program in 2019.

“We were given a task and I think we have executed it appropriately. This graduation exercise is a success story of our achievements,” Dr. Ansumana said.

History, he said, is being made and now that the best of the members of the maiden class are now out into the larger, the least one should except out of his department is excellence.

According to him, the University of Liberia operates the ESCC at two levels (undergraduate and graduate) academic programs.

Dr. Ansumana indicated that they support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on Climate Action.

He also added that the program emphasized the need for research, and capacity development that will contribute significantly to solving environmental issues in Liberia and elsewhere.

President of the graduating class, Williyan speaking of the challenges at the program

“We are very proud of the graduates we are putting out today. They are the best that we have trained,” the ESCC Director Emphasized.

It was also initiated to fill the gap or respond to increasing labor-market demand for professionals knowledgeable about environmental issues in the country and internationally.

“We are not preparing our students only for the local markets but internationally as well,” Dr. Ansumana said, “this is why we have a faculty that is world class. Almost all of the school’s instructors are terminal degree holders.

Also speaking, the president of the graduating class, Flomo Oliver Williyan noted that as the maiden class, the burden is now upon him and his colleagues to put into practice all what they have learned over the years.

“The burden is now upon us to prove to the outside world that ESCC is a place of excellence,” he emphasized.

He added that the journey was not an easy one as it toughness led to a very few candidates getting the nod to graduate.

“Our studies were tough but rewarding,” he said.

Williyan lamented how rigorous the program is but that it has prepared him and his colleagues for the tougher tasks ahead.

“I don’t want to dwell too much on how tough it was for us financially but the research and field trips aspects of our studies were too demanding. Most times we the students had to fund these activities as the school doesn’t have a budget for these. It was very strenuous for some of us,” he disclosed.

The environment, student Williyan noted, was not too conducive for learning purposes as well.

(L-R) ESCC Graduate Program Director, Dr. Charles Asumana, and Assistant Professor, Dr. James McClain.

“Thank God we are the maiden class and we had to pave the way for others. I want to work with the administration and some of our partners, especially UNDP and EPA, to get rid of some of the challenges we have. We don’t want people coming after us to face those same problems,” the graduating class president noted.

“We have to make the classrooms better by digitizing them and also installing computer labs and air-conditioning systems. Our students also need to be compensated for research purposes and other initiatives. It can really be tough financially,” Williyan noted.

Assistant Professor of Physical Chemistry/Climate Change, Dr. James McClain disclosed that the school plans to introduce a Ph.D. program in five years.

“We do have a huge plan of launching our Ph.D very soon. we are working out the modalities with our partners to ensure that this happens in the soonest possible time,” he disclosed in an interview.

The launch was seen as a milestone in the history of the country given that venturing into environmental studies for Liberians was not only difficult, but very expensive as students had to travel abroad for such opportunity.

This probably resulted in having far fewer environmental scientists and technicians.

Dr. James McClain disclosed that the vision for the establishment of the ESCC was conceived in 2018 by the EPA who shared it with other stakeholders.

This, according to Dr. James McClain culminated into the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the President of the University of Liberia and UNDP Resident Representative the same year.

Through these programs, the school is to produce professionals whose qualifications, skills, and competencies will meet the community, county, national, and international needs.

Additionally, it offers research, community capacity building (training & technical assistance), innovation (model demonstration) and information dissemination.

The new interdisciplinary Master of Science in Environmental Resource Science at UL also focuses on water and soil, two of the world’s most critical resources as well as waste management and other areas.

“Our students are prepared for a career in which they investigate, characterize and manage the environment and the resources responsibly and effectively,” Dr. McClaim said.

 

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