Fall Pick: American University of Nigeria

New York, N.Y.  Forget Harvard, although the Dudley Gates do beckon. So much for Yale, despite the allure of the Henry Luce International Center.  No, for my money, I would send a freshman son next fall to the American University of Nigeria (AUN).

Before you judge me daft, consider this: Desmond Tutu just gave the first graduating class’ commencement speech there this May.   The school is associated with American University in Washington, D.C. And the total package for your child is under $10,000.

If your kid is anything like mine, looking for adventure and a quality education recognized globally, this is the place.

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This year’s graduation at the American University of Nigeria.

The school is associated with American University in Washington, D.C. And the total package for your child is under $10,000. If your kid is anything like mine, looking for adventure and a quality education recognized globally, this is the place.

In a small city in the Northwestern corner of the country, home of Nigeria’s former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the university just graduated its first group of English-speaking students – 80 strong.

AUN is the first American university ever to be established in Nigeria. It was commissioned by Vice President Atiku, and founded in partnership with the American University in Washington, D.C. Dr. David Huwiler was its founding president.

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Like any university, professors are key to the experience.

Because of the lack of world-class universities within Nigeria, the former vice president initiated discussions with the American University faculty in 2003 about building an American-style university in Yola, the capital of his home state of Adamawa State.

Yola is a small, rural community that is safe, quiet, and welcoming. More and more, the community revolves around the University, and university students are welcomed by local merchants and markets.

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I met AUN’s American library director Martha Speirs recently in Paris.

The town is also home to a diverse population as faculty and staff members from the United States and many other countries settle in Yola to work at the university.

For a large number of the graduating students, graduate school is the next point of call. Some students have already secured admissions into some of the most outstanding universities in North America and the U.K.

U.S. graduate schools where AUN students have been accepted include Georgetown, Cornell, and the University of Michigan.

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Dorm life is essential at AUN, as at any university.

“This level of entry into post graduate study is an indication that our curriculum is ranked high in the world,” said Dr. Conrad Festa, Interim President.

Prior to coming to Nigeria, Conrad was provost and acting president at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, a highly regarded university with over 10,000 students.

I was interested to learn that the College of Charleston was founded in 1770, making it, the 13th oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. The founders of the college included three signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The university is building a permanent campus on a beautiful 500 hectare site. The first phase of construction includes five new buildings. Each building is multi-storied, air conditioned, and has wireless Internet connectivity.

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Ninety students graduated from AUN this spring.

Classes on the new campus began in September 2006. AUN is a truly “American” university, as about 89% of the faculty are Americans, have taught in, and/or have received their PhDs from American institutions of higher education.

The Mission of the American University of Nigeria is in part to provide the next generation of leadership in West Africa – including Ghana and Togo. It hopes to stimulate economic development in the region.

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The curriculum has been designed to ensure that students will have the skills needed to pursue rewarding careers. Every student, regardless of major, receives high-level training in information technology as well as the fundamentals of business and entrepreneurship.

AUN prides itself on “Teaching students how to succeed.”

Upon admission, each incoming student receives a new laptop computer fully loaded with essential software tools. With the laptop, students can access high-speed wireless Internet from any location on campus, including dormitories, classrooms, the library, the cafeteria, and even outside the buildings.

Technology is used widely on campus, and, regardless of major, every AUN graduate leaves the University with high-level technical skills.

One reason I would send my son is because class sizes are both small and student-centered. Students are encouraged to communicate, think critically, and take advantage of the professors’ office hours and tutorials outside of class.

As in American universities in the U.S., students have ample opportunity to interact one-on-one with faculty and staff. Semesters, testing periods, holidays, and report cards are scheduled in a standard way and are consistent from year to year.

AUN’s American-style credit hour system is compatible with transfer to universities in the United States, and students from American universities in the U.S. are able to transfer course credit to AUN.

There are multiple air-conditioned dormitories (hostels). All are of very high quality. Some double rooms have private bathroom and toilet facilities. Quad rooms house four students who share bath and shower facilities with other students on the hall.

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The staff of the university hail from around the world.

There is also a new cafeteria on the campus which serves a variety of local and international food. There is a medical clinic on campus staffed with a nurse which provides basic medical care.

I was as involved with extra-curricular activities at the College of Wooster and Waseda University (Tokyo) as I was with my studies. Writing a column for the paper was transformational for me. I believe my son will be equally involved with out-of-classroom experiences.

The school offers a wide variety of athletic activities, including basketball, football, tennis, and swimming. There is a student government organization and a student news magazine. Numerous student social events are offered throughout the year.

The city of Yola is served by regular air service from Abuja. Whether students fly or take public road transportation, the Director of Student Affairs is able to arrange for a driver to meet students at either the airport and bus station.

The university is also supported by the American University of Nigeria Foundation, a U.S. 501(c)(3) organization, and all contributions to the university are tax-deductible. Email for additional information to development@aun.edu.ng.

Students can apply online or email admissions@aun.edu.ng.

My son Mathew, now 15, is ethnically Chinese, adopted from Indonesia. I believe he will be up for a cross-cultural challenge such as the American University of Nigeria – and much the better for it as he continues to grow into a global citizen.

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The flags of the U.S. and Nigeria fly side by side.

For my money, I can only hope he embraces such an international and rewarding challenge!

Originally published in The Daily Kos, July 7, 2009.

Luce Index
100 – Desmond Tutu
90 – Harry Luce

About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

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Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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