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Illinois college signs pact with university in Liberia

Bishop John G. Innis (center left) and James Polk sign a partnership agreement between United Methodist University in Liberia and Illinois Central College on
June 9. The Rev. Timothy Bias (left) and John Erwin witness the signing.
A UMNS photo by Paul Black.

By Paul Black*
June 17, 2008 | EAST PEORIA, Ill. (UMNS)

An agreement fostering collaboration between an Illinois community college and the United Methodist University in Monrovia, Liberia, was consummated June 9 in a signing ceremony.

The partnership between Illinois Central College and United Methodist University formally "opens the door for student and faculty exchange for collaboration," said John Erwin, president of Illinois Central College.

Bishop John G. Innis of Liberia, president of the university's board of trustees, said global education is essential. "Education is redemption for life," Innis said. "It is the key to meeting world challenges. The world is for everyone, and it belongs to all of us."

Both Erwin and Innis credited the Rev. Timothy Bias, pastor of Peoria First United Methodist Church, with bringing the parties together for formalization of the agreement. Guy Goodman, a member of Peoria First, accompanied Bias on a trip to Liberia last fall.

"Guy was an emissary for us and in mission for the church," Erwin said. "A global perspective of education serves as a bridge to cross an ocean and builds understanding. When students are informed, they are more competent, and when they are more competent, they are more valuable."

Innis also thanked Bias. "He's a good friend," the bishop said. "He goes around the world and sees possibilities to be in partnership with one another."

Bias noted that part of the work of the church is bringing people together for the transformation of the community and the world. "Many times, you get involved and you can't see what it is going to look like, especially in the middle," he said. "One day, you'll look back on this day and say, 'that's what that was all about.'"

Illinois Central College, based in East Peoria, has 11,000 students with more than 185 programs of study on three campuses – the main East Peoria campus, a downtown Peoria campus and a North Peoria campus.

United Methodist University was established in 1998 and serves students from Liberia, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. The university includes the College of Management and Administration; the Gbarnga School of Theology; the Winifred J. Harley College of Health Services; the College of Liberal Arts and Fine Arts; and the Joseph Jenkins Roberts College of Education. It has 1,600 students.

*Black is the director of communications for the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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