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A New Dean, the New Dawn Continues….

Introduction.

You will recall that we introduced you to Prof Emeka Simon Obe who was appointed Dean of Faculty of Engineering at end of July 2020. As he settles into the new role UNNEFAA interviewed the new Dean to on a wide range of issues which is summarized below.

Q1.  Prof. You recently assumed office as DEAN of the Faculty of Engineering. We congratulate you on your new post and we know you have special responsibilities as you step in, how do you feel about all these?

A1. I feel happy that the members of our Faculty board has deemed me fit for the deanship job. I believe the massive support and good will I received during the election was because our faculty members have faith in me. They believe I can play a vital role in solving the problems of our faculty. They believe with my experience that I can be part of the solution, not the problem and I feel highly elated and thankful to them for that honour given to me with the mandate to lead the first Faculty of Engineering in Nigeria.

Q2. Who is our new Dean? We know your name and all, but give us a better understanding of who our new DEAN is?

A2. I am a Professor of Electrical Engineering, an alumni of University of Nigeria, a free-minded Nigerian a positive thinker who believes in team work, collective engagement and most of all I am a firm believer that the whole is better than the sum. And so, jobs get done quicker, legacies comes handy and solution becomes easier when a leadership chooses to lead from behind. I am that Dean that has his eyes focused on the ball but chooses to lead as people’s servant from behind.

Q3. A lot of people; the students, the faculty staff and others are eager to know what plans the new dean has for the faculty? What is your vision of the Faculty?

A3. The Deans plan cannot be at variance or different from the vision of our University. So the Vision is to make University of Nigeria as the name well suggests, an all-encompassing  leader in research and education in Africa; and by extension lead the Faculty in this direction to get to the point I just mentioned through delivering a strong, more productive, diverse and academic all-inclusive 21st century real-world prosperous engineering faculty. Our Faculty is founded upon the core values of academia: academic freedom, rationality and critical thinking. These are values that are currently being challenged and must therefore be emphasized and defended. No gain reminding us that we all shares and bears the special burden of passing through and/ or working in the first ever Faculty of engineering in Nigeria. The faculty has a special responsibility to encourage and sustain long-term, well grounded, and curiosity-driven research. I envision that this important mandate should characterize our faculty in the coming years. High standards in a broad range of disciplines lay the foundation for multi- and interdisciplinary research of quality, societal relevance and innovation, which we uphold.

Q4. I am sure that there are huge challenges waiting for you at the Faculty. How do you want to tackle all of them, do you have the support base both inside the Faculty, the University and outside?

A4. As I mentioned earlier, the university’s vision is same as mine. There is no difference in us. So my plan is that of the university. In fact, I am always humbled by the level of good will and massive support from the University management, the Faculty board members, and from our alumni friends at home and in diaspora. I have to say that on my part I am selflessly committed to the various departments and their needs. There is no gain saying, engineering education worldwide is in a period of rapid transformation, but the Faculty has never and is not in short supply of adequate manpower. The Faculty is made up of professionals’ of the highest quality and competence that can always raise their head very high anywhere in the world. The Faculty desire excellent in quality over and above other things. We will continue our efforts to expand and to implement the same strategy in close cooperation with the university, the faculty academics and the support staff, students and the alumni members. We are all co-owners.

Q5. With this new wave of congregation of the past Alumni into a Faculty Alumni Association, we want to know what you intend to do to quicken the growth of the Association at the speed and depth of all the stakeholders?

A5. The creams of our alumni remains the pride of the Faculty. Many of them are leading members in almost all spheres of human endeavors; from engineering to managerial, from administrative to worthy entrepreneurial generals, among others. They are doing the Faculty proud everywhere in the world today. It feels special to have most of our past students of all ages come on board to the Faculty Alumni Association. Not every school or Faculty have people as high profiled as our Faculty. You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes not looking at the webpage every now and then.  We are all co- owners of the Faculty, but also veritable partners in progress. There is much more room for all of us – the Class of yesterday years, the class of today and as well as  those of tomorrow – to strive for our stars, to listen to and care for one another, to create for ourselves and our posterity a happy, healthy, harmonious University of Nigeria Faculty of Engineering Alumni. 

The Faculty have made the right decision by engaging the Alumni in not just asking them for support and donations to meet what we think are our needs but in allowing the Alumni to understudy us and asking that they manage the remodeling of the Faculty. This has engendered a renewed confidence in the Alumni in making genuine and long-lasting interventions. The administrative, technical and academic staff are ever ready to deliver on the mandates and wider vision of the university once they are enabled with the right working environment. It is my firm belief that Alumni supporting us, we have the right potential to continue to be the flag bearers and the trumpeter of Nigeria’s technology in a short while. We are very thankful to the set of 1979 and other individual’s with imprints in the Faculty.  

Q6. You must have heard of a major landmark from this alumni congregation: the formulation of a Faculty masterplan. What is you take on this and how do you intend to contribute in its actualization?

A6. We have been trying our best to produce good graduates. All of you are our product. Many of you know what you went through compared to what obtains elsewhere. Our intention is to improve on this quality by ensuring we have enough infrastructural facilities in all the programs, but as you know funding is a very serious issue with federal universities. We are happy with the formulation of a Faculty masterplan, it is a major landmark from this alumni congregation and the first in history of any university world over that alumni had not only created but committed itself to its actualization. The faculty remains very proud and committed to doing whatever it can possible to get us to that point. This administration will strive to sustain the donate-and-manage model which has brought quicker and more satisfactory provision of facilities in the Faculty. This will engender more trust from donor Alumni groups and individuals and make greater room for more infrastructures in the faculty. A faculty Alumni liaison committee has be created that will be solely in charge and Alumni office has been physical set up in the dean’s office to see that anything about the plan is treated with dispatch.

Q7. Outcome Based Education OBE is the new direction for engineering education in Nigeria as canvassed by COREN. Where is the faculty on its implementation especially as some young universities have made significant progress in this? Do you have an implementation strategy to achieve this?

A7. As I mentioned earlier, the Faculty desire excellence in quality over and above other things. Engineering education is in a rapid changing phase and we are moving with that change.  I can just about remember those Monday morning, Tuesday afternoon, Thursdays and even Fridays when we spend endless hours in lecture theatre writing out seemly endless derivations of engineering equations and much has not changed in the last forty or so years. Today, there has been a complete shift in engineering education and things like big high profile project based learning approach changes like CDIO (Conceive Design Implement Operate) and a whole scale of changes in engineering education like that has come out especially in western nations that has ripped up the traditional understanding of how we teach and how we were taught. 

The Engineering education has been for the last century a traditional discipline following a teacher centred sage on stage pedagogy. After three or four decade of people talking about the need for change in engineering education; the need to nurture graduate with the capability to solve the multidisplinary challenges facing the world in the 21st century is apparent. Some of the previous curriculum has remained unchanged for the last 50-60 years focused almost exclusively on the engineering fundamentals (i.e. math and sciences) delivered through lectures, through problem sheets, through labs, with a small number of projects for students. I am afraid that’s the education that I had as an undergraduates too.

Today’s teaching of Engineering has evolved from characteristic and parametric studies to problem solving methods with emphases is on the context of  multidisciplinary understanding, communication skill; the ethical standard and critical thinking,  flexibility, curiosity and understanding of team work. I can tell you the Faculty is gearing towards not just being a player, but becoming a national leader in outcome-based education.  We are currently setting out new curricula for the old and new engineering programmes with clear strategy modelled with clear standards for observable, and measured outcomes and referring to attitudes, social skills, or moral values rather than “just inputs”. The Faculty is not oblivious of this change.

Q8. One of the major challenges facing the Faculty is the decay of existing infrastructure due mainly to lack of regular maintenance. How do intend to tackle this?

A8. Our administration will continue to encourage the development of the masterplan initiated by the Alumni in terms of infrastructure. However, one of the key issues I raised when talking to Faculty board and to different departments regarding my coming as Dean was that I intend to source for funding. Having said that, I am aware that funding has always been a challenge to all sectors in the country.  One of the ways is to make the Faculty best in intellectual property that will generate funds for its self and the university.  The university is a sellable brand in the country and using Faculty of Engineering as a consultancy is an ideal trumpeter for the university technical knowhow. This can be explored to shore up revenue for infrastructural repairs and remodeling. We are also exploring other options with careful optimism.

Q9. You have been an Associate Dean working with you predecessor for some years, is the faculty getting its fair share of funding from the University? If not, how do you intend to improve this?

A9. My experience as an Associate Dean in terms of the current job cannot be over emphasized. The Faculty I believe would get its fair share if the university funding is enhanced. Public universities in Nigeria and even the entire education sector is underfunded. At the moment the Faculty is living on edges. However, I am hopeful that things may soon change, since the Faculty is in constant touch with the university administration about its infrastructural decay and other internal needs of its departments. The university administration is also transparent enough for us to see that her revenues are not big enough to carter for all the needs of departments and faculties. Discussions will be raised on this issue at the committee of Deans and Directors when the university resumes full academic activities post COVID-19.