The historic founding of The American University of Nigeria (AUN) in 2005 was celebrated for the 14th time on November 30, 2019.
A Charles Dickens scholar, Dr. Paul Vita, extolled AUN’s liberal arts tradition. Himself a product of liberal arts education, Dr. Vita, who was the keynote speaker at the celebration, spoke eloquently on what the liberal arts and AUN’s education prepares graduates for.
"The liberal education you are receiving," he told the audience which included students, "helps you to apply knowledge not just on tomorrow's test or the next research paper, but well into your future, as you respond to a complex, diverse, and changing society for which we are all responsible."
He maintained that what they learn as they study across disciplines through its diverse courses in the liberal arts does not end with the final grade of a single course or even the cumulative GPA on the transcript.
"Your liberal education continues through your life, as you re-think and revisit the issues raised in the conversations that are taking place inside and outside of AUN's classrooms."
Recalling his undergraduate days, Dr. Vita said, "I am also a champion and proponent of the liberal arts because, well, I am very much a product of it. My transcript boasts courses ranging from multivariable calculus to music, computer science to American architecture.
"During my first year at university, I was in my "still-deciding" mode – taking physics and math to keep medical school an option, signing up for ancient Greek because I also wanted to become a classicist.
"I was placed in remedial English, which wasn't very promising (it turned out to be my major). And, in the spirit of exploring new fields, I signed up for "Introduction to International Relations" for the Spring semester: I was thinking that I might want to be a diplomat; I liked the idea of being driven around in a black sedan that had flags on it. I was certainly eager to promote peace and prosperity around the world – maybe win a Nobel Prize."
Echoing Dr. Vita’s thoughts on the diverse and complex society we find ourselves, AUN President Dr. Dawn Dekle in her welcome remarks, said Founder's Day is an avenue for the entire learning community to assemble and reflect on the university's mission.
"Founder's Day is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the incredible learning environment and connected community that we have developed in our short history. We have leveraged our geographic location in northeast Nigeria to build our reputation for entrepreneurship and development."
As one of the strategies to achieving the university's mission, President Dekle emphasizes teamwork and collaboration. This is why she introduced an award that recognizes teamwork as well as support and collaboration with other departments/units in the discharge of their respective mandates in the service of the University.
"AUN can and should be the champion of higher education in Nigeria and beyond, the thought leader for higher education, and only through teamwork and collaboration can we reach that high point."
She recalled a quote by John Bunyan, who is famous for writing 'The Pilgrim's Progress': "You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you."
She said the Founder, HE Atiku Abubakar, lives this quote every day, as he does things for people who can never repay him.
"Founding this university is the largest testament to that – he has done something for future generations of students who can never repay him, and he has touched the future of Nigeria by opening this university."
President of the Student Government Association (SGA), Taslim Oladoja, spoke of AUN as a dream university with a priceless model that has stood and will continue to stand the test of time.
"AUN's priceless model is one through which excellence is embraced deeply and honorably, and this is proven to the world throughout its history."
Founder’s day was also an opportunity for AUN’s top administrators to recognize the achievements of an elite group of high achieving students; the AUN Honor Society. Each of the 48 members of the Honor Society was presented with a medal of honor.
Also at the ceremony, 10 staff out of 28 finalists received the Outstanding Staff Award. Four faculty members--Associate Professor of Petroleum Chemistry, Dr. Linus Okoro; Associate Professor in the NES program, Jennifer Tyndall; Instructor in the Mathematics Department, Jamiu Olumoh, and Assistant Professor in the Politics & International Studies program, Dr. Loveday Gbara--received the Meritorious Service Award. The Outstanding Community Service Award went to Community Outreach Assistant, Hajia Turai Kadir, while the Teamwork & Collaboration Award went to Team Residence Life.
Performances of songs and poems by pupils of the AUN Schools spiced up the ceremony.
In special remarks, the AUN Founder, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, spoke of the importance of investing in education. He said a country that allocates a large portion of its expenditure on education will have more productive people, leading to growth in its economy.
Reported by Omorogbe Omorogiuwa