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WMU grad awarded fellowship to assist Liberians

Jan. 9, 2008

KALAMAZOO--A recent Western Michigan University graduate is the recipient of a $35,000 grant to work as a special assistant in Liberia as that African nation rebuilds from 14 years of civil war.

Norris Tweah, who earned a master's degree in development administration from WMU's Department of Political Science in 2006 and his bachelor's degree in communication in 2003, was chosen one of six Scott Family Fellows, a program run through the Center for Global Development. The program recruits young professionals to work for senior Liberian government officials with the goal of helping with reconstruction and development efforts. The six were chosen from among 230 applicants.

The grant program is conducted in cooperation with the Liberian government, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf participates in choosing the assignments for the grant recipients.

In his role, Tweah is the chief of office staff and special assistant to the minister of information, Dr. Laurence K. Bropleh. His work focuses on writing project proposals, press releases and attending meetings on behalf of the minister. He also helps develop communication strategies for the Liberian government and the Poverty Reduction Strategy and supervises all employees in the minister's office.

"At the ministerial level, I developed the concept paper and wrote the project proposal/framework called `The Liberian Renaissance, Changing Minds, Changing Attitudes,'" says Tweah. "The concept takes some of its theoretical justification from such theory which asserts, `Unless democratic transitions are accompanied by distinct elite transition--from an experience of disunity to consensual unity in the case of democratic transition--they should be regarded as strictly temporary.' The Liberian Renaissance takes this theory further in advocating for a total societal transformation instead of just an elite transformation."

Tweah worked for the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia. He is a member of the board of directors at Able and Willing, an international foundation that builds schools in Congo-Kinshasa, and he is leading the organization's exploratory initiative for a micro-finance project to benefit urban women in Monrovia.

While at WMU, he received the Howard Wolpe African Field Research Award and twice received the Zoa D. Shilling Award. Tweah also studied at the University of Liberia from 1995 to 1999.

The Scott Family Fellow program is funded by a grant from the family of Edward W. Scott Jr., chair of the board of directors of the Center for Global Development. The program, announced in February 2007, is a collaborative effort between the Liberian government, the John Snow Inc. Research and Training Institute and the Center for Global Development.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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