Experience is the best teacher

Michael Tuosto

Fodei Baity commands attention.

During the Colgate professor’s lecture last Thursday on “Outcomes of Post-Conflict Elections in Multi-Ethnic Societies,” nearly every student there was engaged in the lecture–and that’s a far greater percentage than we usually see.

Reason being, Baity is from an African country dealing with post-conflict reconstruction.

Baity was born and raised in Sierra Leone. In the early 2000s he was able to come to America, but not before living through most of the 11-year civil war that tore his homeland apart. He was even displaced from his home in the capital, Freetown, and spent a part of his life as a refugee. Despite all of this he is enthusiastic about contributing to the reconstruction of Sierra Leone because, as he expressed to the class, “Home will always be home for most people.” Acting on that sentiment, he returned to Sierra Leone and lived there from 2006-2008, working with important people, even heads of state, on post conflict issues.

Baity certainly stood out walking around the Quinnipiac campus. For one thing, he might be the tallest man I’ve ever seen in person. He is also an African (and he’s proud to now add) American. And that’s important. Students are more inclined to listen to a lecture if the speaker’s experiences have qualified their knowledge of the subject matter they cover. This earns them a unique form of respect.

When Baity said that foreign aid is actually harmful to third world countries and countries in the middle of post-conflict construction, I was more inclined to listen to him because he has not only studied the matter, but he lived in Sierra Leone during the war and went back after to help with post-conflict issues.

The academic who only studies the issue out of a book commands less of my respect and, as a result, less of my attention.

Baity is currently a professor at Colgate University, but is a candidate for a new position in Quinnipiac’s political science department. I hope he gets the job. His background and experience would make him an invaluable staff member.