Archive for Liberia

Top 10 Things That only Happen at SIPA

The following post was contributed by second year SIPA student Richard Parker.  Richard is working in our office this year and he, along with several other students, will be contributing posts throughout the year.


I decided to take a break from paper writing and finals studying to update the blog. This month has been long and crazy! On the 12th the SIPA Pan African Network (SPAN) hosted their annual African Diplomatic Forum. The theme was: Climate Change as the new Security Threat- Implications for Africa. Our keynote speaker was Congressman Donald Payne and we had two panels with many notable and distinguished panelists. I served as the host for the event and also the coordinator for the Human Security panel. Needless to say I was beat after it was all said and done.

The next week I had a group presentation for my Peacekeeping in Africa class which drained the rest of the energy from my body. We presented on Liberia and to our surprise one of my professors colleagues who works for the UN (at the Liberia desk of course lol) was in the audience observing the presentation.

But after that was Thanksgiving!!!! I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. Me and my mom did the normal turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce etc…which is always a treat…but the rest of the holiday well let’s just say it wasn’t a holiday. On Black Friday, while most people spend hours waiting on line to get in to department stores, I spent hours online in the library writing the first of 4 (four, cuarto, quarte, quattro) 20 (twenty, vingt, venti, veinte) page papers. Only this type of thing happens at SIPA. So in true David Letterman style I present the top 10 things that only happen at SIPA (in no particular order)

10: You meet someone from a country that you can barely find on a map

9: You hear languages that Rosetta Stone doesn’t have a disk for being spoken on the 6th floor café

8: You have professors who are real life rockstars at the United Nations

7: You complain about Lehman library but never manage to study elsewhere and get mad when undergrads take all the tables in group study

6: During finals time when studying with friends, someone says they’re about to make a food run and you know that means either Hamilton’s, Sub Conscious or Appletree

5: You have a 2 minute pitch

4: You cringe at the thought of producer theory

3: Riding in the elevator with Mayor Dinkins or a visiting ambassador or head of state seems normal

2: You know the best time to go to the café in order to avoid the line

1: You study with and learn from the worlds best and brightest

So maybe not as funny if you don’t go to SIPA but it was worth a try anyway. Back to paper writing…see those of you starting in the spring in a month!

Hosting the ADF conference

Workshop Trip to Liberia

The following entry was composed by Nora Gordon, a second year MIA student concentrating in Human Rights.  Nora spent Spring Break, and an additional week in Liberia participating in her SIPA workshop.  She is back now but wrote this while she was away.

I am currently working in Liberia with my workshop team on improving vocational training programs for youth in Liberia.  We are here for two weeks conducting trainings in vocational training centers about market assessment.  Our goal is to help staff and participants learn how to use a market assessment toolkit that was produced by a SIPA workshop team in 2008.

Here are a few quick notes from the trip so far . . .


We went to work on Saturday morning for a quick meeting with our supervisor.  Our project involves making a short film and other training tools for people working on job training programs for youth. We will get to visit 4 Youth Employment Program sites throughout the country.

The idea is for us to help local programs figure out market needs and shape their training accordingly.  When we finished our work meeting, a Liberian guy walked into the office singing “In the jungle, the mighty jungle…” We all laughed.  He gave us a giant, gummy smile and told us his name, McNeal.  “I’m the IT guy,” he said.  We told him about our video and he was excited to be on camera.  Then we tried to find out some details about the local culture.

“Do people dance a lot in Liberia?  Where do people dance?”

“Whaaaaaaat?!!  You ask me this?!!  How you gonna ask me if we daaaaance?!”

We laugh.

“A typical Liberian will never answer a question,” McNeal explains.  If you ask “I hear in Liberia you don’t answer questions. Is this true?” We will say “Where did you receive this information!?”


I’m finding some similarities with other places I’ve worked, like Rwanda and oddly even more with East Timor.  Maybe these are just commonalities for conflict/post-conflict zones.  But, for example, there are chips of broken glass cemented along the top of the walls surrounding residences.  There are lots of locks on every door, 24 hour guards, and in our compound there are a bunch of bars on all the windows.  We have 24 hour guards and a curfew.  We’re not supposed to even walk ten feet outside by ourselves after dark (6:30pm). I’m feeling very protected/restricted.


Today we did our training in the field, which involves introducing a “Market Assessment Toolkit” for vocational trainers and youth.  There was a 14 year old boy named Morris in the class who asked “Why is it called a toolkit?” Good question. I’d explained earlier that it was like tools in a toolbox- like a hammer, but for your brain.

So one of his teachers explained that metaphor to him, and I thought, “This is great, let’s put him in our film!”  We’re making a film as part of our project in order to help make sense of the toolkit.  As class went on, though I realized the boy was quite cross-eyed, and I thought “Ugh, now if I put him on film, it will be so stereotypical, ‘Oh look at this poor little cross-eyed African boy’ and people will just focus on that instead of what he’s saying.”  Or else mean people might laugh.

But then I thought, “It’s not fair to discriminate and not put him in the video because of a physical condition.”
So I had this idea to pull him aside later and have him talk to the teacher so he would be looking at the teacher not the camera, and it wouldn’t be so noticeable.  It worked out nicely and is great for our project.




"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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