Saye Beipa is so impressed with the education he found at St. Ambrose University, he is making plans to export the product to his native Liberia.
Beipa, who came to the United States as a political refugee in 2010, is among nearly 300 St. Ambrose students expected to receive degrees at Winter Commencement ceremonies at 11 a.m. Saturday at the RiverCenter in Davenport.
David O'Connell, dean of the College of Business and an SAU faculty member since 1998, will be the commencement speaker.
Beipa will receive a Master of Organizational Leadership degree. It is something the former teacher and pastor in his African homeland earned while working the third shift at a meat processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa.
Beipa previously had studied leadership as an undergraduate at the University of Liberia in the capital city of Monrovia, and came to the US eager to learn more about the subject. After establishing roots in Muscatine, Iowa, he first went looking for a master's level program at the University of Iowa. He was told St. Ambrose had precisely the program he wanted.
Two years later, Beipa wholeheartedly agrees.
"This program has touched my life," he said. "That's the best way I can describe it. I have learned a lot of things from this program that I could not have found in my country. Or in Africa.
"My vision is to take this program back to my country so that students in all African countries will hear about it and will come to enroll. I am thinking big."
He also is moving fast. Beipa this month will return to Liberia for the first time since he left, and he has a Dec. 23 appointment with administrators at the University of Liberia to discuss the creation of a master's level leadership program there.
If all goes well, he will return to the US only briefly before he, his wife and his five children go home to Liberia, a nation he said he left in fear after working in opposition to the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Liberia is only a decade removed from two civil wars that claimed more than 200,000 lives, but Beipa said he is prepared to play an active role in helping Charles Walker Brumskine and the Liberty Party claim the presidency in an election in 2014.
Brumskine finished third in presidential voting in 2006. Beipa hopes to use his lessons in leadership from St. Ambrose to assist the next campaign and, then, to help stabilize Liberia.
"I want to make sure we have a leader in place who will not put the country in a state of anarchy," Beipa said. "I am going to carry this MOL program to Liberia. "