By Neta Nwosu
The Team –Engines of Transformation
AUI started off with a conclave of academic transformers, right from the 8-member Board of Trustees. AUI has an impressive Governing Council, Principal Officers and Professoriate. Individually, they represent the best of academic brains; as a collective, they are a mother lode of intellect and experience. We continue this week with further feature of more members of the team with extraordinary capabilities.
Board of Trustees
Chief Sena Anthony
A lawyer, an Egba and Lagos chief, she has played major roles in key petroleum development agreements and legislation. A recipient of many awards, she serves on the board of several organisations. She is the Managing Partner at Chief Sena Anthony and Associates.
Dame Marie Fatayi-Williams
A French language graduate of UNIFE with a Masters degree in International Relations from Kent in Canterbury, and an alumna of Templeton College Oxford, London Business School and IMD Lausanne. She retired as GM from TOTAL E&P after 30 years of impeccable service. Has led, belongs to and initiated service organisations in State and Church. A freelance broadcaster, a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, an author and a Papal honouree, amongst other awards.
Dr. Emmanuel Adetokunbo Ogundele,
A reverend father, is theActing Head, Department Of Philosophy and Religious Studies.He is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti. He is a Senior Lecturer and has degrees in Philosophy, Religious Studies and Theology from the University of Ibadan, Urban University, Rome and Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium. He is a member of several local and international professional associations. Dr. Ogundele has published papers in several local and international peer reviewed journals. He has also attended several conferences, seminars and workshops both local and international. For nearly two decades, he has been teaching Philosophy at Ss. Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan. Currently, he is the Director of Operations of AUI.
The Acting Head of Department, Business Administration,and Acting Dean, Student Affairs,Dr. Rukevwe Juliet Olughor is a Senior Lecturer with a PhD in Business Administration from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Rukevwe had previously worked at Ajayi Crowther University, Lagos State University External Campus, Yaba College of Technology, and Wavecrest Hospitality Management. She also worked with Lombard Insurance and Public Finance Bank before joining the academics. Her research focuses on the people side of entrepreneurship. She especially addresses questions of corporate entrepreneurship and innovation, and she integrates the background of organizational culture and customers’ satisfaction. Her papers have been published in various international journals.
Dr. Theophilus Anaekenwa Aguguom holds a Ph.D. in Accounting. He has over 20 years of experience in the Oil and Gas (downstream) sector. A chartered accountant, tax practitioner and financial consultant, he won the prestigious Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigerian (ICAN) award of the Best 2018 Academic Researcher for paper presented at the 4th International Academic Conference of Accounting and Finance. He has been teaching for over 10 years in ICAN professional exams study centers. He reviews for several international and local accounting and finance journals and has published in high-indexed journals in accounting and finance. He belongs to several professional bodies such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) and many others.
Dr. Daniel Risiagbon Ogbeide, Acting Director, Academic Planning and Entrepreneurship/General Studies of AUI, is a Senior Lecturer with a BSc, MSc, MBF and PhD (Political Science and Public Administration) degrees. He served in the Nigerian banking system and financial consulting for 26 years. He had previously lectured at Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State and has authored articles in local and international journals. Dr. Edema Philip has Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy from the University of Benin, Edo State, and in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome. His masters is in Philosophy from the University of Ibadan, with interest in Socio-Political Philosophy. He also has a doctorate in Philosophy from the same university. His area of specialization is Ethics and Philosophical Anthropology. He has lectured in Philosophy and Political Thoughts for the past 13 years in Don Bosco Institute of Philosophy; SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Major Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan and Lead City University, Ibadan. He has attended several local and international conferences and seminars, where he presented some of his research works. He has also published papers in both Local and International Journals. At present, he is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy.
Moulding the students The present crop of undergraduates at AUI are from diverse backgrounds. The University has attracted students from all corners of the country and from various ethnicities and faiths. For instance, the very first student to report on the campus on November 30, 2015, was a female, Muslim and from the North, affirmed the Registrar. “I remember when she came for interaction, her father told us that she already got admission to one university somewhere in the North, but that somehow, she just saw the advert in the paper about this new Catholic university, and that he checked the website and read about it. Even though the daughter had resumed university in the north, he withdrew her and brought her to AUI,” Aziba recollected.
With two sets of graduates already working in the corporate world, AUI has demonstrated a capability to produce individuals that have professional and intellectual capabilities to provide solutions to the challenges facing contemporary society. On how the institution grooms its products, Vice Chancellor Odetunde avows that the location of the AUI campus, cut off from the distractions of Lagos, plays a pivotal role in fostering an atmosphere of learning. He said further: “The University also employs modern teaching and research tools. In addition, students are encouraged to experience the corporate world, during the holidays through the Voluntary Holiday Work Scheme.
As a faithbased University, the students are morally groomed to take on challenges of the world and contribute to the growth of the country.” While the institution pays close attention to its students, discipline is not trivialised in the process The Registrar outlined the means by which students are encouraged to aspire to academic excellence: “We encourage the spirit of healthy competition among them. For example, as management, we propose scholarship, prize sort of, to be given to those who have done very well. The idea was approved by the University’s Senate. Hence, students who score 4.2 or 4.5 are on the Deans’ list, while those who score 4.5, which is first class, are on the Vice Chancellor’s list and are given partial scholarship.” Not only do high-flier students receive a cash prize of N100, 000 each, they are also celebrated during an official ceremony to which their parents are invited. This, according to Aziba, encourages the students to always study.
The institution also caters to students’ spiritual wellbeing by ensuring they attend Mass. The intention is not an enforced conversion to Catholicism, Aziba explained, but to engender a sense of unity, where they all regard themselves as one family. “At least, there is one day of the week that everyone goes to the Chapel and prays; and we pray together as a family. And all students and staff are encouraged to join the Mass on Sunday, where they listen to the homily and also pray together. For the Catholics among the students who have had their first Holy Communion but are yet to have their confirmation, the institution prepared them to receive the sacrament.” In moulding the character of its students, AUI further pioneered what has come to be known as Character Formation Courses. The courses, at first unique to the university, have since been copied by other institutions. “These are compulsory University courses, and are tailored for just character formation. These one unit courses, spread across the four years of study, and grouped under the General Studies programme, have to be passed by every student before graduation,” Aziba affirmed.
Despite the emphasis on intense academic activities, students still have ample time to socialize and engage in extracurricular activities, such as sports, leisure reading and social activities that all contributed to the making of a total person. Students describe their experiences at AUI with various superlatives ranging from “quite good” to “amazing.” For Nwamaka Anita Nwokoro, a 300 level undergraduate in the Department of Business Administration, the warm attitude of the staff during the admission interview process was the clincher. “My interview with Augustine University wasn’t just about my academics per se. They wanted to know me as a person, they wanted to know my family and my general background. It was one of the things that made up my mind about the institution,” she recalls. On what has been the major attractions to AUI, Nwokoro enumerates: “The school fee isn’t expensive; we have access to free Wi-Fi and almost 24/7 light, which really amazes me; and in the area of academics, because we have a small population, it enables us to have one-on-one interaction with our Lecturers.
I can say that this is the year I have been able to improve my academic performance.” She also treasures the way distractions are far removed from their surroundings: “Here in Epe, you can’t say you want to go outside to the club; the classrooms are open 24/7; Lecturers are around 24/7. Whatever you need, you will get it, just call. I could say yes, we are good here.” Already, she has a positive outlook of the future. “The school has always given us this IT entrepreneurship service. My 200 level we had ESP 223, an entrepreneurship study that involved both theory (where we are taught how the world outside is) and practical whereby they teach us how to sew, how to cook, how to do photography, how to code, different aspects). If you don’t exactly want to go work for anyone, you can be an entrepreneur yourself by learning all these things which were given to us,” she articulates. Melissa-Jane Akorah, a 300 level student of Microbiology Department, also spotlights other factors that made AUI worthwhile for its students.
The first thing that impressed her was the “very serene and peaceful environment.” She avers: “We are here obviously to study, and I feel that it’s the best place for anyone whoever wants to study. The atmosphere is peaceful and the population here is not humongous.” She adds: “Because of the modest size of population, students have direct contact with their lecturers, and this one-on-one interaction gives room for Lecturers’ quick address of challenges facing any student.” Akorah also revels in the range of events and activities that made her stay on campus fun and fulfilling. “We have sports and other recreational games. There are events, like Students Speak. And also, there’s the spiritual aspect, Mass every day. When it comes to feeding, we have different vendors. There are shops where you can do your hair, and take care of your grooming needs.
There’s everything here. Even our hostels have almost 24-hour light.” She also commends the way the institution responded with virtual classes when the conventional academic activities were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I attended all my online classes. I think I did better than I would have if it was in physical class. All the Lecturers were available for their classes for my courses. It was a successful trial,” she says. Another undergraduate, Obla Paulinus, a 400 level student of Economics, avers that his life has been impacted in many ways by the institution. “Life in AUI is not just centered on academics,” he says, “our spirituality and social life as well are also groomed so that we grow into a complete human being.” In the case of Kingsley Alinna, a final year student of Philosophy, what impressed him most is the academic rigour and discipline of AUI: “Here is not a private University whereby paying your fees in millions guarantees your moving to the next class.
AUI maintains a degree of strictness. If you do not pass, you can’t just move. So, there’s nothing like cheating your way into academic success, no. What it means is that any student seen as succeeding in the school has actually put in hard work.” Alinna believes even if a student doesn’t have a strong educational background initially, “you can build up yourself here in AUI.” He says: “While I wasn’t the brightest student when I got here, the academic tradition here and the environment have helped me to find my potential and become a better scholar.” For him, the most impressive factor is the institution’s pervading competitive culture. He articulates: “The way we are grouped in rooms, we have students of different levels of results in a room. One of your roommates can be in first class, and the other on second-class upper while you are in third class. When you wake up at night and see these two roommates reading, it will be difficult for you to sleep well. You too would also want to read because everybody is aspiring to have good grades. Sometimes, you might even have a room where everybody there is a first-class student. So, it’s very competitive.” He appreciates how the university encourages academic excellence: “On matriculation day, the university awards prizes to students with first class and second class upper results. That alone gives the picture that, “If I do well, I might be applauded.” And their parents will also be there to see them. So, even if you are not doing it for yourself, for your parents.”
AUI’s alumni membership has grown in size with the convocation of the second set of graduates on December 10. The Alumni was a year old on October 22. Emmanuel Onyia, President, AUI Alumni Association provided a perspective on life-after university for graduates of the institution. Onyia, one of the pioneer set of AUI who graduated with First Class in Economics recently completed his NYSC programme and is presently working as Management Consultant in the advisory practice of KPMG. He gives a good report of his colleagues: “They are all doing well. Everyone is trying to find his or her feet in the professional world. Majority of us are currently gainfully employed while some have become entrepreneurs. Everyone is doing well.” He further reflects: “I must say, life after AUI has been rewarding so far. AUI prepared me for life. A combination of my academic knowledge and the soft skills learnt in AUI has made me excel in the workplace.
Studying in AUI has certainly made me better in the workplace.” Onyia gives kudos to the AUI educational system, saying: “AUI’s focus on a holistic education stands it out among other institutions. In AUI, aside being assured of academic excellence, you are also sure of development in leadership abilities, soft skills, emotional intelligence and all other attributes that ensure character formation.” Key accomplishments In its five years of existence Augustine University has established the protocol and system for a functional world-class education that meets the needs of the 21st Century. One of its accomplishments is the entrenchment of a 21st century teaching system that aligns with international best practices. This is one of the factors which gives her an edge over competitors in the education sector in Nigeria. A few are listed as follows: The institution also has a remarkable achievement in its adoption, integration and deployment of digital learning concepts.
During the six-month nationwide lockdown when students were inevitably at home, AUI leveraged an array of technological driven teaching aids like Google Classroom, Google Meet, Google Jamboard, Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, MS Onenote etc to continue to deliver wholesome and innovative learning experience to its students. With portal, e-classroom and examination, Reliable internet facility, E-Library, the University is a leading institution in the country in terms of digitalisation of learning experience in tertiary institutions. AUI also has made good progress in terms of its overall teaching and learning ecosystem. Aside from the campus experience that makes learning a worthwhile activity, state-of-the-art laboratories, up-to-date library, elite team of lecturers, conducive lecture halls (fully air-conditioned), and uninterrupted power supply are some of the commendable achievements over the last five years. Furthermore, AUI has successfully added well-trained professionals to the Nigerian systems. Its recent 38 graduates were products of Accounting, Business Administration, Computer Science, Economics, English, Microbiology and Philosophy programmes. In two years, the University has produced not less than eight First Class graduates and more than 35 Second Honours (Upper Division).
Looking ahead: The next five years
At AUI, the wheel of progress continues to turn unhindered. From Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins, Proprietor of the institution, to members of the both and the Governing Council, to faculty members and other staff, all hands are on deck to keep the AUI ship on course. Even the Founder, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, is still actively working for the progress of AUI. Barely two weeks after the December 10 convocation, Anthony Cardinal Okogie donated a water plant worth N25 million to the institution. While the idea of a water plant was conceived by the Governing Council, the Archbishop Emeritus, had volunteered to take up the task.
While commissioning the project, which was initially estimated to worth N20 million, the Cardinal Priest appreciated individuals and groups whose relentless efforts have led to the realisation of the water plant and other laudable developments in the university. Similarly, the Proprietor of the institution and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Martins, is also working assiduously for the rapid development of the institution. His efforts earned commendations from Anthony Cardinal Okogie who paid a tribute to him for “his fatherly and extraordinary care of staff and students of the institution.” While plans are underway to ensure significant achievements over the next five years, various stakeholders in the institution have appraised the progress made so far and their verdict have been “so far so good.” Chief Gilbert Grant, Chairman, Governing Council expressed satisfaction at the calibre of graduates that have emerged from AUI. “We are extremely proud of them and we hope to continue to produce good graduates who will get to the workplace and become our ambassadors,” he says. By his appraisal, AUI has recorded some reasonable success. “When we started, we had a little over 50 students, for facilities provided for about 700 students.
That tells you we will have funding issues, so we have had to make judicious use of funds. The Archdiocese had stood up to the challenges. Yet, we have not abdicated our responsibility to boost the morale of our staff. For instance, during the COVID-19 lockdown period, Augustine University paid every staff all their salaries.” Looking at the future, Chief Grant affirms that the Council has taken the necessary steps that will keep AUI on a growth path that will transform it to the level of Ivy League universities. His words: “The pioneer VC Prof. Afolami worked assiduously and laid a very good foundation. The two graduating sets were his students; and if you visit AUI campus you will be proud. The ambience is first class. When his tenure ended, we scouted around for a successor, somebody who has a pedigree, the right background and network, someone that can take the AUI to the next level, and we found Prof. Christopher Odetunde. I have confidence in the new Vice Chancellor, that with his background and network and backed by the Council and the Archdiocese, he will be able to take the university to an enviable level.” The Vice Chancellor, Prof Odetunde, himself, reveals ongoing efforts to “bring seven new programmes on board.” “We had applied to the NUC; presently we are waiting for verification. Hopefully, out of that seven new programmes, two will be departments, meaning two additional departments.” Looking back at the past five years, Prof. Odetunde who resumed duty earlier in October, gives Augustine University pass mark with respect to infrastructural development, students’ moral upbringing and the camaraderie among faculty and staff. “I must say that many parents are happy with this and are actually participating in the development of AUI,” he enthuses.
He gives an indication of where future development lies: “Although efforts have been made at increasing student enrollment, it has not been easy in the past. Instead of complaining about this, the new administration is using the past to advance the future development and increase enrollment by: introducing new courses that can impact national development; bringing onboard lecturers and Professors that can add value to AUI; and developing strategies to increase AUI IGR so as not to be a permanent burden on Lagos Archdiocese.” Prof. Odetunde hints at working to develop AUI Aviation certification, nursing and law programmes. He says: “Let us realize that aviation is a global business. When I wake up every morning, I always ask myself, “were my actions of the previous day in line with the vision of our great university” and if not, can I do better? Along this vision, we plan to project our faculty members to the world view of Aviation and make AUI relevant. More importantly, the Entrepreneurship Unit will be enhanced with the introduction of more skill programmes such as auto-mechanics, painting, welding, shoe-making, etc. This will allow our graduates, in the short term, to be self-sufficient before they land the “big jobs” of their dreams.”
Other plans he unveils include:
• Achieving 100% accreditation for all AUI programmes;
• Increasing enrollment to a reasonable level;
• Creating an incubation hub where ideas can be developed by both students and faculty;
• Ensuring that AUI produces more than 50 world-class publications every year;
• Attracting donors for AUI’s infrastructural needs;
• Building strong and formidable alumni association that will be proud of their institution and who will be ready to support, and
• Creating a career office that students can visit to seek available employment through employers that would have indicated their needs to this office. In the opinion of the Chairman Board of Trustees, Sir Steve Omojafor, at just five years, AUI has met their expectations–to a large extent. He outlines the metrics of the success: “We have never had academic strike, cultism or the like. What we have had in the past five years has been uninterrupted educational programmes running from session to session. Our second convocation was held on December 10 and we are delighted with the kind of products that we are turning out. And essentially, those were the two objectives that influenced or made the founding fathers to set up the university.” He also unveils a future plan that will continue to grow AUI on the path of a world-class institution: “We are applying for seven new courses that will assist us in improving our student intake.
We want to add programmes like Mass-Communication, Engineering, Law, Cyber Engineering, Computer based programmes and other programmes relevant to today’s children that they will want to go into for their future.” As much as they strive to improve the population of students, “we want to retain our discipline, our moral teaching,” the BoT Chair says, adding: “We are very selective in terms of students that get our admission. We conduct serious interviews. We want to know parents, what they do, how serious they are at keeping their children in the university. We are putting in as much as we can to ensure that we build a university that will be known for discipline. We will not accept indiscipline, we will not accept cultism, we will not accept any bad acts that are inimical to the progress of the University. We will not hesitate to rusticate students who are undisciplined.” Right Rev. Msgr. J.K Aniagwu, Chancellor of the University, also agrees that the university has not fared badly.
“In five years, it has more than met our expectation,” he submits. The only drawback, he, also, points out, is the low student population. According to him: “We had hoped to have many more students by this time. We planned for a campus that would have a minimum of 500 students by this time, but presently, we have just over 200 students. So, in terms of population, it has not met our expectations; but in terms of performance delivery, in terms of academics and moral upbringing, AUI has more than met our expectation.” His vision for the institution in the next five years is clear: to expand the programmes being offered at the university. “As a matter of fact, some of these programmes have been presented to the NUC. We are already putting up structures like the Faculty of Engineering. And we have plans for the Faculty of Law and other programmes like Mass Communication and Bio-Technology,” he says. Mindful that any young people, who are children of Catholic parents, would have preferred Augustine University, but they go elsewhere because the AUI is not offering courses of their choice, the Chancellor avows: “If we increase the number of programmes, I believe that more of our young people, Catholic and non-Catholic will choose Augustine University.” For Augustine University Ilara-Epe, there are still miles to go. In this regard, the words of BoT Chairman, Sir Omojafor, is instructive: “Today, we are only five years old; in the next five years, we will have made some indelible mark in the educational system of Nigeria, Africa and, of course, the world over.”