Bringing the World to Wells.
Shortly before civil war broke out in Liberia in 1989, Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo was forced out of the country, as a result, he says, of “the dysfunction of presidential and legislative elections.” He migrated to the United States, leaving the University of Liberia, where he was chair of the political science department. He found opportunities teaching at Wellesley College, Vassar College, and Cornell University before making his home at Wells. But he never left Africa entirely.
Whether traveling throughout Africa to advise delegates from the United Nations and other regional and international agencies, attending conferences and workshops, or serving as co-editor of the African Journal of International Affairs, Professor Lumumba-Kasongo remains actively involved in African politics. He creates knowledge and informs policy makers not only about Africa, but also other regions around the world.
“Because I am heavily involved in world politics, I can bring those experiences into the classroom,” he says. “I combine teaching and research so that I can excite young minds while producing knowledge that can effect policies worldwide.”
When class is not in session, Professor Lumumba-Kasongo travels extensively as an active member of the International Political Science Association, American Political Science Association, and Council of Social Science Research in Africa. He is also former vice president of the African Association of Political Science.
His courses at Wells reflect wide-ranging interests and expertise, including political science theory, comparative politics, international relations, international political economy, and global political issues, including the environment. “Everything I teach is in the context of global systems, he says. “So when we study Japan, for example, we don’t just learn about the policies of Japan but how those policies affect the whole world.”
A prolific researcher, Lumumba-Kasongo has served as editor of the Journal of African and Asian Studies, associate editor of the Journal of Comparative Education and International Relations in Africa, and member of several editorial boards of journals. He has published more than 100 articles and many books, the most recent of which focuses on Japan-Africa relations. He recently served as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of International Cooperation in Education (CICE), Hiroshima University, Japan. These experiences help him involve his teaching assistants and students in the business of developing and testing hypotheses.
“I love this work because I can influence the minds of young people, he says. “And to me, that is vital—to have a hand in creating and sharing knowledge—not just any kind of knowledge, but critical, historical, comparative information.” Lumumba-Kasongo says that he particularly enjoys teaching at Wells because of its small class size, its philosophical foundation of social justice, and its commitment to the liberal arts. “When you put these elements together, you have something wonderful, and that is why I am here,” he says.
As a public intellectual, Professor Lumumba-Kasongo sees his work as his way of having a positive impact on the world. “In order to make the world better, you have to understand it,” he says. “I help students understand the world by giving them the opportunity to gain critical thinking skills and knowledge, as well as the ability to see the connections between knowledge and the world out there. It’s a responsibility and a challenge, but I love it.”