American University Assists Nigeria in Establishing U.S.-Style University

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Next September Nigerian students will be able to get an American-style college education right in their own country. With the help of management and academic advice from American University (AU) in Washington, D.C., the new university will also look to attract students from other African countries and around the world.

"We envision that ABTI-American University (AAUN) will become a model for American-style education in one of the African continent's most important countries," says American University President Benjamin Ladner. "This exciting initiative will meet a great need in Nigeria and the region for a high-quality university education, while also providing joint educational opportunities for AU faculty and students."

American University will provide Nigeria with management and academic advice to start up the university in Yola, Nigeria. Yola is the home of Nigeria's vice president, Atiku Abubakar, whose wife is a Ph.D. student in AU's School of International Service. Abubakar contacted the dean of the School of International Service in 2003 about the possibility of starting up a university in Nigeria. And on Jan. 1, 2004, AU signed a five-year management contract to advise and assist in recruiting a senior management team, building the physical facilities, creating the curriculum and other tasks.

"AU administrators and faculty have been enthusiastic about helping to establish a university that could play such a positive role in Nigeria and Africa," says Dr. Robert Pastor, who along with Dr. Patrick Ukata, director of the AAUN's Washington office at AU, is leading AU's advisory team.

Ukata says that AAUN will offer a four-year undergraduate education, with two years of general education followed by two years in a concentrated major. This is in contrast to the existing Nigerian institutions, which are based on the British model, in which students concentrate and take courses solely in their major.

To date, AU has designated Dr. David Huwiler, the former president of the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) as the first president of AAUN. AUCA is the first American-style university in Central Asia, however, it is not associated with American University in Washington. Dr. V. James Garofalo, the former dean of the School of Education at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria in the 1960s, has been designated the first vice president of academic affairs.

Ukata says that the initial faculty will mostly be American to ensure that the American style of pedagogy is taught and to train the Nigerian faculty who will be employed by the university. "We foresee in time a lot of the key positions will be held by Nigerians but they will maintain the American-style tradition," Ukata says. …