New Student Profile: Dr. Albert Barume
On a warm August morning, the day before the start of fall semester classes, I sat down to chat with Dr. Albert Barume, a member of this year’s incoming class. Albert is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but has spent the last four and a half years working for the UN in Geneva as part of the International Labor Organization, where he worked on indigenous and tribal issues. He has a long history of working for indigenous people’s rights. He has a PhD in international human rights law with a focus in minority and indigenous rights. Prior to his time at the UN, he worked for several years in Congo on a project to create community forest legislation. This legislation, he told me, has finally been adopted by the Congolese government. Before that, he worked for five years in Cameroon on a project funded by the World Bank and the EU, which targeted illegal logging. At the time, Cameroon was losing as much money to illegal logging as it was gaining in international aid. He has also served on the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights since 2006.
As I was reading Albert’s resume before interviewing him, I couldn’t help but wonder what had brought someone with such extensive professional and academic experience to FES. His work with indigenous communities, he explained to me, has brought him close to environmental issues, but he found he didn’t have the knowledge to adequately address them. So he came to FES to do a one-year mid-career degree.
FES specifically appealed to Albert for several reasons. The first was the great diversity of courses to choose from and the school’s interdisciplinary character. “I find it extraordinary,” he told me. It was important to him to find a program where environmental issues were being considered from multiple angles. It was also important to Albert to find a program that he could complete quickly. The one-year mid-career program was ideal.
Now that he’s been at FES for a little over a month, Albert has discovered that there’s more to love about the school than just its academic character. At FES, he has discovered a unique and unexpected sense of community. “You come in and you discover it. You’re not just a student who walks in and walks out. You become part of something.” After three weeks of Mods, he has forged connections that he can tell will take him beyond his time at FES. Being part of such a close-knit community “keeps you in touch,” he said.
I asked Albert what his favorite thing about FES was thus far. “The freedom of studying what you want,” he responded. The flexibility of the program was large part of what drew him here. That, he said, and the fact that the faculty and staff make themselves very available to students.
Once he’s done at FES, Albert intends return to his work with indigenous communities. He is hoping that the connections the makes here will help to bring increased visibility to some of the issues he works on.
Albert is one of more than 150 new students starting at FES this semester, each of them with different backgrounds and interests. Look for more new student profiles on the blog the next several weeks!