McMaster University welcomes Mme Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
During the week of June 12, 2023, the Office of International Affairs had the honour of working with University Advancement and the Faculty of Humanities to facilitate the visit of Mme Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa.
Mme Johnson Sirleaf served as the twenty-fourth president of Liberia from 2006 to 2018 and is a Nobel laureate. She has received many awards for her leadership and efforts to bring women into the peacekeeping space and is now a recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from McMaster University.
During Mme Johnson Sirleaf’s time at McMaster, she attended the Humanities Dean’s Luncheon on Monday, June 12, hosted by Dr Pamela Swett, Dean of Humanities, and Dr David Farrar, President, McMaster University, alongside Dr Susan Tighe, Provost, McMaster University, the Mastercard Foundation, and numerous faculty members and staff that contribute to the humanities at McMaster. Following the luncheon, Mme Johnson Sirleaf attended the convocation ceremony at which she delivered her address.
On Tuesday, June 13, the Office of International Affairs was pleased to host Mme Johnson Sirleaf in their boardroom, alongside members of the African-Caribbean Faculty Association of McMaster University (ACFAM) and the Black Student Success Centre (BSSC). During this meeting, Mme Johnson Sirleaf sat down with Dr Bonny Ibhawoh, Vice-Provost (International), and ACFAM faculty members to discuss McMaster University’s initiatives to empower Black students.
Mme Johnson Sirleaf noted McMaster’s breadth of initiatives that bring together a vast demographic of faculty, staff, and students, and emphasized the importance of recognition while maintaining culture and tradition—something Mme Johnson Sirleaf insists that McMaster does quite well. She cited McMaster’s work in Indigenous Studies and direct work with Six Nations of the Grand River as an example, alongside international initiatives in Africa and the Caribbean and collaboration with Empowerment Squared.
International education, Mme Johnson Sirleaf noted, is essential to not only the pedagogical framework of the academic institution but also its culture. Graduates who have studied and researched abroad will, in the words of Mme Johnson Sirleaf, “return and carry that spirit that has developed by being a part of the McMaster family,” a spirit in which scholars and students from all over the world can exchange knowledge and embrace culture and tradition. Through international education, Mme Johnson Sirleaf said, we can create “a better world where one is recognized for just the person that they are.”
Academic institutions and scholars, however, face a major challenge. Mme Johnson Sirleaf assured that global division and exclusion pose significant threats to education, and to create unity such that scholars can thrive, it is essential that institutions continue to combat marginalization and division in not only society but in education.
Mme Johnson Sirleaf went on to tour the Black Student Success Centre and meet with students to discuss BSSC’s initiatives. She then attended a luncheon hosted by ACFAM and the Office of International Affairs, where she was joined by Dr Pamela Appelt and Jean Augustine before delivering her keynote speech at LIUNA Station.
The Office of International Affairs extends its sincerest gratitude to Mme Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her trusted confidante, Ethel, along with the Mastercard Foundation, Empowerment Squared, the Faculty of Humanities, ACFAM, BSSC, the Office of the President, and the team at McMaster University Advancement.Faculty, MacGlobal, News