By Kel Hahn
As a high school student in Lagos, Nigeria, Edward Ojini wasn’t sure the University of Kentucky offered the right situation for him to pursue an engineering degree.
“Most international students don't get to take a tour of campus, and I had never been in this part of the country before. All I could do was use Google images, talk to Nigerian students attending UK and try to visualize what living on campus would look like,” he recalls.
Edward also wasn’t sure the finances would work. He says that in Nigeria, parents usually assume the responsibility of paying for their children’s education. Because initial scholarship offers from UK were low, Edward did not want to burden his parents with high bills for tuition and living expenses.
“It was shaky at first,” says Edward. “Fortunately in addition to the Kentucky Heritage Scholarship, I later received a William C. Parker Diversity Scholarship from UK and the Lester Scholarship through the College of Engineering.”
With financial questions settled, Edward gave UK a more serious look. He says that, in the end, one critical factor cemented his decision to become a Wildcat.
“Kentucky basketball,” he says, smiling.
Now a junior majoring in electrical engineering, Edward is taking all he’s learning inside and outside the classroom and analyzing how it will help him once he returns to Nigeria.
“Nigeria has poor power distribution and transmission systems, so I'm trying to hone my skills in the power sector so I can eventually go back and contribute toward solving some of the problems.”
Edward understands that gaining the necessary expertise will take time. He plans to work in industry and sharpen his research skills while he is in the US.
“When I feel like I'm standing on my own two feet and can call myself a good electrical engineer, then I will go home and use my skills to help my country.”
For Edward, academics is only one component of becoming a professional engineer. He knows that he will also have to work well with others. To that end, his active participation in the UK chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) has provided a support base and a place to learn crucial interpersonal skills.
“I’ve been in NSBE since my freshman year. As engineering students, we’re going through the same challenges. We share each other's successes, help each other through tough times and motivate each other to become creative thinkers and problem solvers.”
Semester by semester, Edward can see his future coming together.
“I see it as a puzzle. I have all these pieces: my classes give me the knowledge base, and NSBE gives me the teamwork skills. When the puzzle is finished, I’ll be able to see the big picture of how I can best help my country.”