Student Work, Student News, Field Work Term

Liberia, Law, and Life's Work

Nush Laywhyee ’19 initially came to Bennington excited to study medicine. After a Field Work Term (FWT) experience at a hospital, however, he realized that it wasn’t for him.

Liberia Law Life's Work

“It’s one good thing to take the classes, but the FWT experience itself gives you a different perspective,” Laywhyee said. “Taking Social Science courses with people like Rotimi Suberu has been so much fun, and working out in the community makes me feel like myself.”

Bennington’s Plan process—which integrates coursework and FWT experiences—encourages students like Laywhyee to view these discoveries and resulting shifts in focus as part of the learning experience. Now, Laywhyee studies Economics and Political Science.

His latest FWT, Laywhyee said, cemented what he wants to do. After graduation, Laywhyee plans to stay in the Northeast, near his family in Philadelphia, while he earns his JD. Afterwards, he’d like to move back to Liberia, where his doctorate of law will be an excellent credential to work in the country’s government.   

Laywhyee’s past FWT experience was twofold: he spent six weeks interning at the Judicial Branch of Liberia, and five weeks as an economic researcher for Greenhaven Financial Management in Dorset, Vermont.

While in Liberia, Laywhyee assisted Justice Karsor Zubah and experienced court proceedings at every level of the Liberian government: from traffic court to Magistrates Court to one memorable day spent at the Supreme Court.

The first Monday after Laywhyee arrived in Liberia, he got to sit in on the Supreme Court ruling over the 2017 presidential election runoff vote, which had been delayed due to Liberty Party member Charles Brumskine’s allegations of corruption.

At the session Laywhyee observed, the Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to necessitate a re-run of the initial vote. Later in December, George Weah, a member of the Coalition for Democratic Change, was elected president following the run-off.  

As Laywhyee’s supervisor introduced him to other Liberian judges, and as he sat in the Supreme Court with people who were deciding the country’s direction, Laywhyee reflected upon his journey.

“Originally, I’m from Liberia,” Laywhyee, who moved to America when he was 13, said. “I was one of those kids who ran in the street selling car parts, and I was one of those kids who experienced the war. Every day during FWT, on my way to court, I’d see the same kids that I used to be. My journey to this point is something to be proud of. It also reminds me who I am as a person, and what I have to do with my life.”

During his observation of the Liberian judicial system, Laywhyee found himself frustrated with its ongoing corruption.

“Little bits of corruption become part of the system itself,” Laywhyee said. “It’s viewed as the norm to not allow the system to work, but rather to go around it instead.”

To return to Liberia as a lawyer with expertise in corporate and international law, Laywhyee said, will put him “in a position of power where my work can impact a lot of people.”

Laywhyee attended The Charter High School for Architecture + Design in Philadelphia. Laywhyee’s guidance counselor suggested Bennington to him after noticing that Laywhyee’s personality and drive reminded him of Julia Cooke ’16, another CHAD graduate who went onto Bennington.

After a campus visit, Laywhyee found that he liked Bennington’s small size and focused atmosphere. Now, with one more year left before graduation, Laywhyee feels like Bennington has prepared him to face the next chapter of his journey.

Bennington offers me a space to develop as a person and as a student. 

Nush Laywhyee '19

“I’m in a position now to put myself against any student from any university. I’m confident in what I’ve learned here and the experience I’ve gotten through FWT.”

 

By Natalie Redmond, Associate Writer