On October 6, President Dekle addressed students during the Graduate School’s second seminar for the semester.
“You are so important to AUN… I really think the life of the university is the intellectuals: professors, graduate students, and then the students. You are really helping our community to develop and grow, helping us to have our place on the global stage because your research is important in what we are doing.”
As a higher education professional seeking how best to make a significant contribution to the African continent, President Dekle said the graduate students can help her in this drive. She maintained that AUN could contribute through them to developing other learning communities when they graduate and get a job in other universities.
“I see you as really critical in my vision for what we are doing. Some of you who will be professors in other universities, you carry us with you. Then we can form partnerships with you. This is very exciting. … I didn’t just come to AUN to lead AUN; I wanted to come here to help raise the profile and the quality of all higher education in Nigeria, if not West Africa.”
President Dekle shared with the students her experience as a graduate student 30 years ago. Although she felt ‘insecure’ during her first year, she would eventually (in her fourth year doing her Ph.D.) become the President of the Graduate Students Council, a reason she said the graduate school experience had a huge impact on her life, helping her discover herself more and her capabilities.
“For me, graduate school was a transformative experience. I got to discover within myself that I had the intellectual capacity to actually get a Ph.D., but also, I had the beginning of what you call soft skills to manage and lead and communicate and do all those things that leadership is supposed to do. So for me, graduate school was not just to get that degree, but it also helped me understand more about my temperament and myself. I’m forever grateful for that experience.”
She admitted that every new student has some fears of some sort and said they can overcome such insecurity if they share their feelings with others. “I just want to encourage all of you that AUN is a safe space; you can share with me, with your dean, with your professors, and with each other and we can carry each other along. It is very important that we just understand how we are feeling.”
One unique characteristic of the American education system is the flexibility in course offerings that allows a student to explore before concentrating. This applies not just to undergraduate program offerings. Dr. Dekle encouraged them to look outside their department or graduate program, to interact with other graduate instructors, and even interact with the undergraduates because it would enrich their experience.
“You can find your way in graduate school. You can find what interests you or you can take those classes or you can even change your focus in graduate school. You can start out thinking you want to do your thesis or your Ph.D., in a certain area, but you can change because that is what the American style is about. You can shift around. And so just explore and see what interests you at AUN. ”
The President also gave tips on how they can be successful.
And just like on the first day of class when she brought apples to undergraduate students, President Dekle did not come empty-handed. She brought special cookies made in her kitchen.
By Omorogbe Omorogiuwa