Dean Fonkam to Grad Students: Let Your Vision Drive Your Ambition

At the new graduate students’ orientation seminar on August 24, Dean Mathias Fonkam of SITC urged the new students to allow their ultimate vision--or where they envisage themselves beyond AUN--fuel their drive in completing their graduate degrees, especially when it comes to their degree theses or dissertations.



The Dean said it was imperative that they envision a life of problem solving, even as they embark on their research.

“Where do you see yourself beyond this program?  Have your theses in relevant areas that will address societal needs.  I believe in solving problems first and foremost, otherwise, I wouldn’t have left the US to come back to work in Africa.”

At the interactive session, Dean Fonkam said, “In IT & Computing, what you need is just a PC and your brains.  This is one industry where you can create incredible worth with little upfront capital--just your intellectual capital and time.  This is mostly the industry of ideas…the richest guys in the world today are in this area because of the problems they solved with this technology.”

The dean stressed that problem focus was essential as it provides a purpose or the ‘why’ of the endeavor.  He added that when one solves a problem, it is a value added to society, “...and that value, more often than not, does not go unnoticed…You may get the attention of a local organization or the government.  The sky is the limit…If you do it well, and if it becomes an entrenched service offering, the money comes naturally.  Don’t start with a focus on money or recognition, as in, ‘I just want to get a degree.’”

Dean Fonkam joined AUN in Spring 2006 after almost a decade of teaching experience at three universities in the US and Brazil and several years of industry experience in the Silicon Valley in California.  He acknowledged that there remains a huge gap between the developed and developing worlds, even in the IT & Computing field, which many see as a great springboard to help close the development gaps within and across nations.

In closing, the dean encouraged the students to tap into the large pool of resources that the University has, especially the very talented faculty in SITC--even those they may not meet in class.

“My philosophy of teaching is that of a coach or guide or mentor, mostly pointing you to the wealth of resources out there and strategies to employ to gain more in-depth knowledge/skills solving problems.  When it comes to problems, Nigeria (and by extension Africa) is a gold mine!”

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