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Professor draws on life experience

Nyema Guannu came to the United States from Liberia to earn a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University, a master’s degree from the University of Denver, and is working on a doctorate from the Claremont Graduate University. The adjunct professor of economics is teaching Economics 220 during the fall semester. This is his first semester at the University of La Verne. / photo by Stephanie Ball

Nyema Guannu came to the United States from Liberia to earn a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University, a master’s degree from the University of Denver, and is working on a doctorate from the Claremont Graduate University. The adjunct professor of economics is teaching Economics 220 during the fall semester. This is his first semester at the University of La Verne. / photo by Stephanie Ball

Kellie Galentine
Staff Writer

Nyema Guannu, adjunct professor of economics, is never one to shy away from an opportunity.

Leaving his home of Monrovia, Liberia, in 1989 to pursue an American engineering education, Guannu’s life took many turns, which led him to the field of economics.

“The deal was I would come to college, get my engineering degree and then come home, but things change,” Guannu said.

When civil war broke out in Liberia right after his arrival to the United States, Guannu lost all of his funding to attend Arizona State University.

Having to juggle jobs for money and putting his education on hold after war broke out at home, Guannu brings life experience to the classroom.

“My story is that I had a little rough patch but compared to the other Liberians during the civil war my story is like peanuts,” Guannu said.

“It’s like nothing. I wouldn’t do anything different; I would have done everything the same.”

Professor of three sections of economics this fall, Guannu is new to campus, but ULV is not the only campus he calls home. He also teaches at Chaffey College, Cal State Fullerton and Loyola Marymount University.

“These opportunities just came to me all of a sudden and I couldn’t turn them down because as an adjunct you never know, a college may need you now but not the next semester,” Guannu said.

By integrating outside materials and a variety of ideas into his classes, Guannu’s students will benefit from this exposure.

“Analyzing current situations and comparing them to previous situations would make economics more interesting,” freshman economics major Joshua Martinez said.

While students seek to gain a better understanding of economics, some look to teaching styles like Guannu’s to make information more accessible.

Guannu takes his past and uses it to try and push students.

“I try to use those things to motivate my students; I sort of say that they have a unique opportunity to get an education with very little obstacles,” Guannu said.

Despite having to stop taking classes in the middle of his undergraduate career, Guannu eventually graduated from Arizona State University with undergraduate degrees in philosophy, political science and economics. With backgrounds in several different subjects, students can expect Guannu’s classes to tie in other ideas.

“If other things were brought in to help you understand economics, it would make it easier,” freshman accounting major William Barrios said.

Teaching economics is just one side to Guannu that students see. Despite the struggles he has overcome, Guannu said that his life is all very regular.

“The little free time that I have I go to the gym and exercise. I do a lot of martial arts right now, I do Brazilian ju-jitsu,” Guannu said.

Currently Guannu is a student at the Claremont Graduate University, working on his doctorate in economics. He is married to his wife Leigh and they are the parents of two.

Kellie Galentine can be reached at kellie.galentine@laverne.edu.

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