Liberia visits UAA


Childhood hunger activist Kimmie Weeks will leave Alaska on September 20, one day before former diplomat to Liberia Brooks Robinson arrives on the 21.

Robinson spent three years in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, where Weeks was born. She met him once as he toured Liberia.

“He was quite an impressive man,” Robinson said.

At 17, Weeks investigated, wrote, and released a report on the Liberian government’s involvement in training children as soldiers. Assassinations attempts against him occurred as a result, each lead by former president Charles Taylor.

After receiving political asylum from the US, he founded Youth Action International, which supports families living in post war nations.

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Weeks was on another speaking tour around Liberia and unavailable for an interview.

While studying in Norway, Brooks Robinson decided she would like to work in Africa. That decision came true during her 26 years in the State Department.

“I wasn’t into politics then, I was studying comparative literature actually.  I think I became so interested of all the foreign students I got the chance to meet. Norway had lots of scholarships for students from developing countries…All the challenges that these eager, interested young men and women were facing—how to come out of colonialism and form a better political system, how to improve education, produce more food—those challenges captured my interest,” Robinson said.

She returned to the US, and graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in International Relations with an emphasis on African Studies.

Since joining the Foreign Service in 1985, Robinson has attained the rank of Minister Counselor. Her most recent position was as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Liberia, where she spent three years.

“I actively sought that job in Liberia because I wanted to be part of our governments’ efforts to recover from civic conflict and outright war. I knew our government was leading the effort to get Liberia back on its feet, and I felt a lot of personal satisfaction knowing that I spent three years contributing to that development,” Robinson said.

Robinson is visiting UAA as part of Global Opportunities Week, hosted by Career Services and the Office of International Affairs. She’ll be here for one week beginning September 23, and hold a “Conversation with a Career Diplomat” on September 27.

It will cover the two hour Foreign Service Exam, the selection process, and the 22 Foreign Service Specialist tracks.

Each position in the State Department is divided into one of these 22 tracts. Five are foreign service officers, and 19 are tracts specialist. Robinson will also outline what the state department wants in all of its applicants.

“The core thing we’re looking for is something we call the 13 dimensions. These are more qualities rather than technical skills. Things that make people suitable for the hardship of things overseas: being adaptable, flexible, resourceful, interpersonal skills. There’s no best degree, no worst degree everything you do could help you build up those 13 dimensions.”

Robinson has had 6 terms of over seas duty, most of which were in Africa—Swaziland, Ghana, Nigeria—as well as Geneva, Switzerland.

She was last in Alaska 8 years ago as part of a training program with the state department. She visited Juneau, Anchorage, and Barrow.

Robinson continues to monitor Liberia.

“We hope that they never go back to war. Both civil wars were devastating. It killed a huge percent of the population, destroyed infrastructure…..I’m proud that our government has been working really hard to help that country recover, and get back to its feet,” Robinson said.