This semester, Dr. Memunatu Pratt, Director of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at Fourah Bay College at the University of Sierra Leone, visited campus for two weeks to discuss the new collaboration between Arcadia University and the University of Sierra Leone. A Fulbright Scholar, Pratt also presented on post-conflict peacebuilding experiences in the West African country that had been ravaged by more than 10 years of war.
Pratt, who was in the U.S. to study national security and foreign policy through an organization based at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, stresses how a multidisciplinary approach to the collaboration is the only way it will be beneficial for all parties—universities, students, faculty members, and by extension, communities.
“We need to see how cross-cultural lessons, subjects and disciplines work across cultures,” she said. “We are piloting one of the first multidisciplinary partnerships with peace being at the center of what we do. This makes it very unique.”
An associate professor and lecturer for nearly two decades, and an expert in Peace, Conflict, Gender and National Security Studies, Pratt was instrumental in establishing the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at Fourah Bay College, for which she received the National Prestigious Insignia Awards as Grand Officer of the order of the Rokel. She also was integral in the development, design and establishment of the United Nationals Peacebuilding Fund for Sierra Leone, and was invited to Buckingham Palace by the Queen of England as a result of her work in Peace and Security.
Pratt stressed that the collaboration, while benefiting students at both schools in terms of internship and employment opportunities and curriculum harmonization, also will go a long way in raising awareness of why countries such as Sierra Leone need support in order to flourish democratically.
“Countries like Sierra Leone have been through terrible experiences,” Pratt said. “Support needs to be given to the infrastructure. If Sierra Leone degenerates, it will be hijacked by groups like Al Qaeda. We know the U.S. is passionate about promoting democracy and fair elections, and basic human rights issues worldwide. If a country like Sierra Leone is not supported and given the kind of social protection it needs, it falls by the wayside.”
When speaking with Pratt, her optimism is clear—and infectious.
“I am very positive and very optimistic that our work is making a difference. This work will help transcend our universities in the next two or three years. We may be starting small, but we are thinking very big!”