New Vice Chancellor of Dominican University, Ibadan, Prof. Hyginus Ekwuazi in this interview with NODEBECHI OKONKWO, OGUNDELE EMMANUEL and LOVETH UGWU, speaks on his plans to reposition the University to gain more social penetration and offer opportunities to students who are intelligent enough to absorb the kind of quality of holistic education the institution provides.
Are there developments in the University you think can be improved or changed?
The danger of such a question is, it will look as if I’m criticizing those who were here earlier. But, building an institution is a gradual process, and there is definitely room for improvement here and there. I want to say something, the challenge we have is among other things, a lack of social penetration and it’s a problem that you don’t really lay at the door of one person. We are all workers here, so, if I’m saying this was wrong, I’m also saying that we did not do certain things, so it is not specific. Even last year, this present set that has graduated, I remember going to the class and asking them, what is the mission and vision of Dominican University? Nobody knew it, I tried it down the line and the result was the same. I went to my HOD and told him there is something terribly wrong happening here. This Institution is bringing up students who don’t even know the mission and vision of the place. How can they represent the brand? You saw what happened today?
Do you mean orientation for all the students?
Yes! That’s where what happened today got its inspiration. I have taken it upon myself to start from this place, because, if you have to brand a place, it is both ways, -you’re branding the products and also bonding the brand ambassadors. Those things for me are the major things in any school. They become advocates of the brand. You see, when you’re staying in a place and you get that type of answer, it means something is not alright and it means you’re dealing with a lot of issues. And, the thing about branding again is, if I make this product and I don’t brand it, there is already a brand. The brand is whatever people want to think about it because I’ve not directed what they should think about it, I’ve not created that emotional attachment to my product, which is what branding entails. We have a university that exists, but, has not been branded, which is negative branding, because, lack of branding in itself is branding of a type.
That is why you can come out and say Dominican University, and you will be asked where is it? We’re dealing with a lack of social penetration as we call it. This brand has not penetrated in society, so why hasn’t it, four years after? I want to make this University known within and outside of its location.
You are a professor of film and broadcasting, are there plans towards making broadcasting rooted in this university with respect to a functional and accessible studio?
Yes! Let me tell you something about the studio, the media centre here is the best I have seen apart from the one in BUK, Bayero University in Kano. I came with three of my colleagues from Pan Atlantic University (PAU) when Father Ken Nkadi ran a workshop and they were amazed by the kind of equipment we have here. This university has the best and that’s the advantage. As regards to broadcasting and film, there’s a new course here. I took part in the unbundling of the mass communication programme. I designed one of the courses – film and multimedia. Father Akinwale, when he was here as the VC, agreed that the course would be taken, so we’re going to have a department of film and multimedia, because, that’s what NUC has approved for mass communication, for social sciences. What (NUC) approved for Arts is B.A. Film, whereas for Social Sciences it’s B.Sc. Film and Multimedia and that’s where I’m targeting that studio. The film media component is solid.
As I said, I designed the two courses for NUC and I’ll tell you what I did, the template I used for the equipment that any university teaching film and multimedia should have, is the template that I got from here- Dominican University.
Besides academic concerns, do you have other plans for the university?
Oh yeah! Because it will not just be all bookwork. In what I presented to the Board of Trustees (BOT), I argued seriously. Part of my argument was that virtually nothing happens here except reading and teaching. But then, there should be more of those things that don’t deal with reading and teaching. Do you know the lucky thing? The man who just came in here is the Provincial, meaning that he’s the proprietor of the University. He said there must be something other than teaching and learning in the place. He’s from the US and he understands how these things work over there. So I’m answering – yes. I’m going to hold a meeting with the students’ union executives on Monday and that is part of what we’re going to discuss. What programmes do you have that we can buy into? So, we’re also trying to create something that can bring the parents of the students in.
Are there other things you have in mind about repositioning the institution for the best?
Let me say this, nothing can happen if we don’t carry the students along. Absolutely nothing. So, we cannot talk down on the students. It broke my heart when I discovered that eight of the students would not recommend here. That means that there’s something missing. The point for me is that we cannot create that brand if we don’t create ambassadors for that brand. So, I’m going to create the ambassadors. We’ll have to buy into the vision, the mission and the core values. And that’s why I challenge the students to challenge us with whatever they think we’re not doing or not doing well. Demand value for your money. Maybe I should quickly add that if you go to our website, it says those students who scored about 180 in JAMB, the Provincial has said no, we must aim at something higher. That, if we have only five students, he’s willing to spend money to run this place. It was like he was speaking my mind. So we will not be taking the bottom of the barrel.
So, your aspiration is to have the best students?
Yes. We’ll take people that are intelligent enough to absorb the kind of quality education we provide. It also makes for healthy competition among students. If you’re intelligent, you’re in the midst of other intelligent people and the consultant said the same thing. He said, no parent who has an exceptional kid would want to go to your website if you target low-performing students. Am I sending him/her among dummies or to go meet dummies? So the process of branding is that you’re trying to give yourself that class. Many students in private universities are not teachable and they come out with 2.1 (Second Class Upper). we’re already damaging the brand if we do that here. When you take a student that cannot speak good English, you’re killing the brand that you’re creating and that is what is happening in most private schools. When somebody has a first-class or 2.1, you don’t need to be told. And, because we’re not challenging persons with who they should be challenged with, which is what life is about. So those are the things we want to see if we can retrace.
What inspired you to seek the position of vice chancellor of Dominican University?
What inspired me, I suppose, is the fact that one would really want to take one step ahead. Within the university system, there’s virtually nothing I haven’t done. Once you attain a professorship, it means you’ve done virtually everything. Two, I had established a school earlier, a degree awarding institute, Nigeria Film Institute (NFI). That’s something like a monotechnic, it awards just one degree, a degree in film production. And, I had been a Director General (DG) in a Class B parastatal – Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC). It is a high parastatal in the Federal Government. I had designed a lot of courses for the National Universities Commission (NUC), so becoming a VC is like a new challenge entirely. I have done virtually everything you can do in the university system except be a VC. So that’s a big challenge and for God’s sake, why not, if I feel I can do it.
What was your reaction when you were announced as the new Vice Chancellor?
My reaction was “Thank God”. I now have an opportunity to run a university the way I think it should run. Let me quickly put it this way, I’ve had experiences that are A1, that’s what I’m trying to say. I’ve been in UI (University of Ibadan), I’ve been external examiner to various universities in this country. I’ve had cause to also design courses both for the NBTE and the NUC and a crucial part of that, I’ve spent quite some time at the Pan-Atlantic University. I spent some time at Covenant too. By the time I’m done, I’d have brought Dominican University in-between Pan-Atlantic and Covenant. You can see what I spoke about today, because we must begin to think in terms of that brand. So yes, I think I have enough experience for that. And, change is coming!