by Onize Ohikere
As Andrew Conteh lectures his students with hands in the air and a passion evident in his voice, it’s easy to tell he isn’t your average professor.
“He gets everybody involved in the classroom,” said freshman Rahel Negassiberhane. “He always does that, and it’s kind of hard not to come to the classroom without knowing anything.”
Originally from Sierra Leone, Conteh has been a professor in MSUM’s political science department for a while. He’s currently on his 30th year.
But this one is different, as it ends his journey here at MSUM as he starts to make his retirement plans.
“It’s going to be hard,” Negassiberhane said.
Aware of the impact his immediate departure could have on his students, Conteh decided to ease the transition for them.
“I decided to be on phased retirement primarily because I do not want to put my students in a situation where they’ll be left alone,” he said. “I owe it to them to graduate on time and be able to get the classes they need to graduate.”
In this case, phased retirement means he will continue to work part-time as a professor and advisor until the last set of students he taught graduates.
Conteh’s teaching career precedes his time at MSUM.
“I spent some years teaching at Kansas and Colombia, in New York,” he said. “Before that I had taught in England, in the then Soviet Union, and in my early days I taught in Sierra Leone.”
He also has some experience working with the United Nations under his belt. When he became a professor, Conteh decided to utilize this experience by annually leading students to take part in the Arrowhead Model United Nations conference in Wisconsin.
“We had to write resolutions and debate with other teams to get our resolutions to pass,” Negassiberhane said
This year, MSUM students won five awards at the conference. Conteh was also recognized as an outstanding advisor for actively participating in the conference for more than 25 years.
“He was amazing,” Negassiberhane said. “As our mentor, he was there to tell us what we had to do, and he taught us a lot of things.”
For Conteh, receiving the recognition was humbling.
“It’s good that I was recognized, but I just think that there are many more individuals out there who are doing better jobs than myself,” he said.
His retirement leaves many students with mixed feelings.
“I’m happy for him that he can finally retire and take a break,” philosophy major Anthony Howe said. “I’m personally and selfishly disappointed because I’d like to take more classes from him.”
Though Conteh is preparing to take his exit from MSUM, he said the story doesn’t end here for him.
“Retirement doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon learning,” he said. “It just means a change of pace.”