Professor Edward Omi Ujuanbi is the current President of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma Alumni Association.Ujuanbi, who has grown from being a student of the first state-owned university in Nigeria to a lecturer in the 37 year old former Bendel, later Edo State Univeristy, has great ideas concerning the roles of the Association he heads, and indeed, other alumni associations, should be playing in advancing tertiary education in the country. He shares some of these views in this interview.
Q: There is a difference between the corporate world and what you would find in school. Networking can help students learn how their classroom work translates to the real world. How do you ensure that your Alumni Association plays this significant role, as a bridge between the classroom and the outside world, in the life of graduating students of your alma mater?
A: It is indeed an indisputable fact that there is a lot of difference between the corporate world and what you would find in a University in Nigeria against the backdrop of the falling standard of University education due to poor funding by successive governments. In order to close the gap, the Alumni Association in synergy with the University administration has encouraged distinguished Alumni who are in the corporate world to have regular interactions with students; an opportunity to gain insights into the operational world and how best to transfer learning. This has been very impactful. It has helped in confidence building and curriculum development.
Q: When it comes to explaining their success, recent school graduates attribute more of their achievements – in terms of employment and career progression – to their connections and networking with alumni compared to when there are no such connections. How is your Association strengthening this advantage?
A: This present Executive Council (EC) strongly believes that the essence of Alumni Associations, apart from building friendships and supporting the University, is to create platforms for networking among members. Thus, since our inauguration in 2015, we have deliberately focused our attention on establishing new branches within and outside the country and encouraging successful Alumni and young graduates to attend meetings. The ultimate benefits for the young graduates would be the creation of employment opportunities, particularly from successful Alumni entrepreneurs and mentorship for career development.
Q: What would an alumnus who is yet to join your Association gain by being a member?
The benefits of being a member of the Alumni Association cannot be overemphasized. Apart from the opportunity it creates for leisure time with old and new friends, it will provide help in the advancement of members’ professional careers and growth of their business endeavours through the platform we create for networking, as well as mentorship.
Q: To what extent has the Association achieved its objectives in tandem with the corporate vision of its alma mater? In what specific areas has the Association met the needs of the university?
A: The vision of our University is to foster the growth of knowledge for advancement of Society. The core activities of the Alumni have been in tandem with the corporate vision of our University. Excellence being a core value of our Alumni Association, we have used multiple approaches to maximize the quality of the students’ learning experience. In this respect, we have vigorously mobilized Alumni members to support the infrastructural and human capacity development of the University through donations of books to the library, building of critical infrastructures such as Students’ hostel, Lecture/Examination Halls, etc. as well as the provision of scholarships to indigent students.
Q: How much are you in touch with your alumni network? And how much do you encourage students to do so? Staying in contact with your members and having members from across the nation that are working in various organizations gives you the ability to know what’s going on and helps current or prospective students learn if there’s a strong alumni network in place that can help with things like career placement.
A: I am very much in touch with our alumni network. As a Professor in the University, I have leveraged on my presence in the University to draw the attention of students to the need to take advantage of these networks. Although, ours is a work-in-progress, with the cooperation and collaboration fostered with our branches, we are presently collating a directory of our members working in critical sectors of the economy who are in positions to assist our new graduates, particularly for career placement and other support. This directory will be utilized in creating different channels of communication on several social and professional media platforms.
Q: What are some ways in which one can give something back to their alma mater? Is monetary support the best way? Are there other ways of giving back to our teachers and institutions?
A: There are several valuable ways you can give back to your alma-mater. Most times, cash donations to fund projects in the school or support the activities of the Alumni in funding projects in the school appears to be most common. Industry professionals and business professionals in the Association usually provide in their organizations for students’ undergraduate and graduate internship placements. Beside cash donations, giving your time and talent to support the activities of the Alumni are ways by which you can also give back to the school. For instance, the Executive Council recently commissioned a global events committee under the leadership of Mr. Ritchie George, a Trustee and member of the UK Chapter to plan an event that will bring together our members spread all over the world for an award/launching programme, geared towards infrastructural growth of our university. Certainly, this would require time, talent and money.
Q: What is the position of the Association on CSR, and what issues are you focusing attention on presently that requires world attention?
A: Water supply has been a major problem of the citizens of Ekpoma and its environs where 80per cent of our students reside. Although there is a dam which is able to meet the water needs of students on campus, extending the supply to Ekpoma has been a challenge over the years, which has created a lot of frustration among the students as well as the residents of Ekpoma. Leveraging on CSR to extend the water supply to the town from the campus with the support of world donors, will create a lot of positive impact on the residents and make life more bearable for students.
Q: How old is the AAU and what is its population? And, in respect of diversification, how unique is it?
A: 37 years old Ambrose Alli University has over twenty-five thousand students as at now with twelve faculties and a vibrant postgraduate school. The university has a very large landmass and a functional dam that would support investment in mechanized agriculture and fish farming which the current university administration under the leadership of Prof. I.A Onimawo is currently leveraging on.
Q: What activities does the Association have lined up for the current year?
A: We have had several events in the current year 2018 which included hosting of the Conference of Alumni Associations of Nigerian Universities (CAANU) from 5th to 8th July 2018. This was an event that brought delegates of the Alumni Associations of Nigeria Universities together in Ekpoma. The keynote address was delivered by Senator (Prof.) Osarhiemen A. Osunbor, a former Governor of Edo State on the topic “Alumni Association as major Stakeholders in the development of University Education in Nigeria in the 21st century.” We are looking forward to a global event that would bring alumni members from all over the world to Lagos on the 15th of September 2018. The chairman of the Planning Committee and Trustee of the Association is working in synergy with the Executive Council to make it a successful and epic-event. We also look forward to having our Annual General Meeting sometime in October.
Q: How would you rate alumni associations generally in Nigeria?
A: Alumni Associations in Nigeria still have a long way to go when compared with what obtains abroad. However, for us in Ambrose Alli University Alumni Association, we are leveraging on the exposure of our members in diaspora who are also participating actively in the activities of foreign University alumni, which they attended after leaving Ekpoma. This has kept us many steps ahead of other Alumni Associations in Nigeria.