The intent of this text is to cheer and inspire my fellow Haitian citizens who are struggling in many universities with the aspiration of becoming prominent people for the society. Perhaps a few skeptical people may ask why it is written in English, but my intention is to write to students, so I am confident that they can fully grasp the substance of this text. Many people have this very pessimistic perception about universities in Haiti: that we are mediocre and that foreign students are necessarily better than ours. They forget that we Haitians, we are very hard workers, very highly motivated and enthusiastic learners. It is true we lack sufficient investment in our education system, but our unyielding motivation is enough to make us well-educated. With that said, let me share with you my experience at Faculté Des Sciences in Haiti and shed light on some misunderstanding that people might have about us.
Let’s start from the beginning. I entered “Faculté Des Sciences” in 2009. Three months later the earthquake occurred and destroyed our facility. I lost my brother Joseph Vladimir Laguerre who was a senior in mechanical engineering. I was shocked but since then, I decided to become a civil engineer. Six months later, The faculty reopened in temporary shelter (which ultimately lasted more than 5 years) and my father compelled me to go back. The conditions were harsh, and I could not keep myself from recalling the day of the earthquake which was still vivid in my thoughts. Nevertheless, I was determined to learn. I was a zealous student; I studied hard, and I gained the maximum of knowledge that I could. I had a very interesting group of students in my inner circle(Garlin, Delcine, Civil, Ismael aka Bourik President (lol), Steven aka Vice-President Bourik(lol), Malachie, Jessica, Wadelin, Anne Martine, Terry, Seide, Maignan…) which cheered each other all the time and helped us to excel. I also had outstanding professors, which taught me the fundamentals of engineering. I aced many of my courses, and graduated with excellence. After that, I did my master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh, and now I am doing my PhD at Rice University and I am making the same effort as anybody else to keep up with my classes and my research. My message to all Haitian students is to have a “nevertheless mentality”. As long as you are enthusiastic and make huge effort in your learning, it does not matter too much where you are studying. The real determinant of how much learn is you and your endeavors. Now, all of the brilliant guys in my inner circle at FDS are now having a good level in engineering because they were diligent students.
Now, let me address some critics a few odds have about us at the FDS. Very often, simple-minded people label us as mere mathematicians which means that we are not good engineers and that we cannot contribute to solve actual problems in Haiti. They never make a profound analysis, but they try to support their simplistic argument by referring to the collapse of FDS during the 2010 earthquake. That is to say, our building should have been earthquake resistant. This argument apparently makes sense, but it is not complete. A such conclusion should not be yielded based on a single event. Actually, we are not mere mathematicians. It’s true that we do a lot of mathematics, but it represents the prerequisites in preparation for engineering classes. It is the same requirements as in many other universities around the world. At FDS, we cover a lot of interesting classes in the civil engineering department (concrete, hydraulics, pavement, transportation, geotechnics, bridges). That’s why I am saying: “we are not only mathematicians”. A few naysayers may now accuse me of speaking with a forked tongue based on my previous blog (De la théorie sans pratique en Haiti) where I denounced a lack of practice and too much theory in our Faculty. This is not a contradiction. Doing theory does not mean doing only mathematics. All the non-mathematical classes I mentioned above were also part of the interesting theories learned.
There is a lack of investment at FDS, nevertheless we are making huge effort and we are able to produce some talents. I thus find it ruthless, insensitive and unkind to label us as mathematicians. If you never visit us in our campus, never give a penny in our budget, you are not in a good position to judge us.