President Margee Ensign’s Address at the Spring 2022 Convocation and Pledge Ceremony on January 24, 2022
We gather together today to take part in a very special ceremony, here at a very special university.
When AUN was established in 2004, our founder, HE Atiku Abubakar, had in mind a unique mission. He wanted not only to create a rigorous, modern, and American style of university for Nigeria.
He wanted one that would represent the values of integrity and one that would lead the drive for development in this part of the world.
These are the words of our founding document:
The American University of Nigeria seeks to become a great centre of learning and research for Nigeria and Africa and a catalyst for development in the entire world.
It will thus be a university honouring the traditional roles of repository and transmitter of culture and knowledge and become a centre for the creation of new knowledge.
We are tasked not only to take on the traditional roles of a university—teaching, learning and research. We are instructed to become “a catalyst for development in the entire world.” And that makes us unique here in Nigeria.
Our Mission Statement goes on to say that we must play another role, that we must chart the course that “a great university must play in the development of a great nation.”
So we are special, we are unique in this part of the world, in two ways:
we offer an American-style university education, and we seek to develop solutions to local, regional, national and global problems.
This is not a secondary, peripheral, an incidental part of our work at AUN. This is the heart of our work. And it all starts just outside our front gate.
Let me first say a few words about what, I believe, an American-style education means, what it represents. Because here at AUN it is more than just a name.
You may know that our Founder, HE Atiku Abubakar, grew up near here.
And while he was growing up, he was taught by four young American Peace Corps volunteers. They made a huge impact on him, these Americans. He was not taught to merely memorize and parrot back what his teachers had said.
Unlike some of his other teachers, these young men encouraged him to think for himself, to explore new ideas, to question those ideas, and even to challenge the teachers themselves. That, it seems to me, that is at the core of what a US-style education--at its best--tries to do.
That is why we have small classes—so that everyone can interact, can ask questions.
That is why we have discussion groups—so that everyone can test their ideas, bounce them off others.
That is why we have research papers—so that everyone can ask new questions and search for new answers.
That is why we have faculty office hours—so that everyone has a chance to discuss course materials more deeply, one-on-one, with the professor.
That is why we have community service—so that everyone can take what they learn on campus and leave the campus and test what they have learned in the real world, to see if it really applies.
And as to being a catalyst for development, I am happy to say that this work has been well launched at AUN. Based on the US model of engaged university learning, our students have for many years been involved in the community development of many kinds. Our faculty have been at the forefront of cutting-edge development research. Our graduates have gone on to help change the world. Our Atiku Institute is making a huge difference in our community, our state and our region.
Today, in addition to taking the pledge, we are honouring two groups of students—our incredible honour society students as well as a group of students who competed in a contest last semester to describe what it means to be a development university.
I want to start our ceremony today by reading some of their thoughts and recognizing their work.—I read portions of 8 essay
Part Two—leading up to pledge
As you heard from all of our speakers, here at AUN our work begins with honesty and hard work. Unflinching. We find out what is really going on. We work hard to distinguish between real facts and fake facts.
We see the world’s problems for what they are and we find ways to make things better. It can be done. It must and it will be done. And we will be the ones to do it.
But if that effort is to succeed--and I am certain that it can succeed—if we are to succeed together, we must be grounded in those principles taught to us by all of our ethical systems and religions. We must be grounded in integrity. We must be grounded in care for others. We must be grounded in excellence, responsibility and in hard work.
In a few moments, you will be asked to take an important step.
You will be asked--heart and soul and mind—you will be asked to commit yourself to the set of bedrock principles upon which this unique university was founded. You will be asked to commit yourself to AUN’s standards. To AUN’s ideals. To AUN’s goals.
They are the standards, ideals and goals to which we must adhere if we are to succeed together.
The principles to which we must commit ourselves if we are to succeed in our brave venture.
They are standards, ideals and goals which are both high and attainable. Attainable by all students, attainable by all faculty, attainable by all staff here at AUN.
Such a community, such an ethically grounded community, our AUN community, such a community cannot fail.
And now together please join me in taking the first step on this brave journey, the first step on this mission to build a better world.
Please join me in reciting our AUN integrity pledge.
Please everyone stand, and repeat after me: