Thirty-two years is a long time to work at one university, but it’s been a joyous time for Saba Jallow, Ph.D. As an associate professor in Georgia Southern’s Department of Political Science, Jallow was one of the founders and past director of the Center for Africana Studies. He is retiring this year.
“The joy has been in meeting people, especially students, helping them celebrate diversity and walk in other people’s shoes, seeing students graduate and become successful,” said Jallow.
MODEL AFRICAN UNION
Born in the Republic of the Gambia in West Africa, Jallow is known as an expert on Africa and world politics. He pioneered the Southeast Model African Union (SEMAU), held annually by the University System of Georgia’s Africa Council. SEMAU is a simulation of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“During this simulation, students are given the opportunity to meet ambassadors from the AU and craft resolutions, which are designed to solve specific problems,” said Jallow. “The students write the resolutions, debate them, and go through the frustration of trying to gain agreement. I think it changes them and informs them more than the classroom itself.”
Georgia Southern students indeed have been changed, and many of his former students credit Jallow with inspiring them toward productive careers.
“At Georgia Southern, Dr. Jallow sparked my interest in all things Africa and world politics,” said Nebiyu Feleke (’93, ’95), resident legal advisor for the U.S. Department of Justice at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia. “When I was a federal prosecutor in D.C., he often brought his student delegates to my house for a meal and roundtable political discussions. Now, I’m stationed in Addis Ababa, headquarters of the AU. Yet, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Dr. Jallow.”
Delegations and international students also attend the International Model African Union (IMAU), an initiative of Howard University in collaboration with the African Union Mission in Washington, D.C.
“When we attend SEMAU and the international conference, American students become closer to the problems that African countries go through in real-time and then make recommendations to those governments,” said Jallow. “The director of the international model shares the information with Addis Ababa. The ambassadors tell us they have actually utilized the proposals the students have made.”
IMPACTING THE LIVES OF STUDENTS
It is easy to sense the admiration of students who have been lucky enough to take his classes.
“I was a sophomore still trying to find my place at Georgia Southern when divine intervention stepped in, and I ended up in Dr. Jallow’s international politics class,” said Adrianne McCollar (’04,’07) director of the Division of Facility Services at Georgia Southern. “Entering Saba’s class, I just hoped for an ‘A’ to boost my GPA. But, instead, what I got was a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. I also found my forever love, [Statesboro] Mayor Jonathan McCollar, while preparing to be a delegate for the Model African Union.”
Students who didn’t have him in class but participated in SEMAU and IMAU felt his impact too.
“Quite honestly, Dr. Saba Jallow has been one of the greatest influences in my life,” said Dylan John (’16,’18), former Georgia Southern SGA president, now working for Piedmont Construction Group. “Dr. Jallow’s dedication cannot be sufficiently captured if you have not seen his dynamism, commitment, and influence over countless students across the nation through his leadership in the Model African Union.”
Former students, from attorneys to government officials to diplomats, acknowledge Jallow’s influence on their life success.
“Saba Jallow led the charge to ensure students of color and those from around the world found a safe space at Georgia Southern where they could flourish,” said the Rev. Francys Johnson, J.D. (‘01). “He measures his success in lives touched, careers advanced, and the improvement of the human condition.”
“Dr. Saba Jallow can be described best as a teacher, a true mentor, and leader,” said Sheila Francois, J.D. (‘15). “He helped me realize my passion for community activism and solidified my interest in becoming a lawyer.”
Likewise, recent graduates are profoundly affected by the consistent aura of goodwill that emanates from Jallow.
“Nothing could describe how dedicated, optimistic, approachable, and encouraging Dr. Jallow is,” said Berenice Zundi, a May 2021 graduate in professional communication and leadership. “He is always willing and ready to provide advice and motivation to anyone.”
Jallow plans to stay busy in retirement, including frequent trips to Africa.
“Since my wife [Renata Newbill-Jallow] is still the chief public defender for the Ogeechee Circuit when we get time, we’ll be going to Africa and coming back to Statesboro, engaging the community at large, here and in Africa,” he said.
When asked what he would like his students to remember about him, Jallow shares his lifelong philosophy.
“Life is a journey. You take it as it comes. But you do your best to make sure that you can achieve your goals. And if there are difficulties, know that people will help you, just like you would help them if you had the opportunity to do so. We all have to work as a team to sustain society at large, and in the process, improve the human condition.”