The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

We Did It! Engineering at Ashesi is Happening!!!

Screenshot 2015-08-13 16.00.37
I was looking back at some notes I took when Ashesi’s President Patrick called me in the fall of 2013. I was in the car, on the way to our church, St. Phillips United Methodist Church in Round Rock; Steve was driving and Anna was in the back seat. I had some trouble hearing, but I got the gist: Patrick wanted me to lead the development of the engineering program. I reminded him that I wasn’t an engineer, he said that he didn’t think that was absolutely necessary, they had engineers giving input, I would coordinate the efforts. Gulp. Patrick wasn’t asking, he was informing me of what my first duties would be. And I was already committed, I’d already given notice at Southwestern University and we were already well into planning the move.
“Has anyone ever had more faith in you than you had in yourself?”
Has anyone ever had more faith in you than you had in yourself? Fast forward almost two years, and… WE DID IT! And by WE I really mean WE: the faculty at Ashesi who already had a first draft of the curriculum and had already consulted local industry; the faculty at Ashesi who helped me as I coordinated moving the project forward; the administrative staff who gave us the resources to plan and coordinate the work; the international engineering advisory faculty who looked at drafts of the curriculum and gave feedback, and came to a face-to-face meeting almost a year ago at Olin for an intense two-day review; faculty and administrative staff from our mentoring institution, The University of Mines and Technology, who also gave good and timely feedback and were willing to work with us on areas in which there were differing views; the National Accreditation Board (NAB) and the faculty panels who came as part of the NAB review teams to review the curriculum and facilities and ultimately gave their approval; and supporters who have helped fund me being here to coordinate the efforts. It may seem trite to also credit God, but truly, this task has had so many hurdles that were overcome, there just is no way it would have happened without divine orchestration and blessing.
“Suzanne, we can’t fail at this.”
When I got to Ashesi and took over leading the efforts, I was scared, to say the least. It didn’t help that Patrick would occasionally say, “we can’t fail at this.” No pressure! I quickly became at least conversant, if not an expert, on the state of the art of engineering education. Thankfully, I already knew Ashesi’s educational model very well. I was never very knowledgeable about our lab equipment needs, but worked hard to rope in others who did, both at Ashesi and internationally. I discovered a lot about myself, and other’s trust in me: I am not perfect, omniscient, or a superwoman; what I am is smart enough to learn what I need to know, and ask other people for help when I know I can’t do it alone. I did try to say, “no, I can’t meet that deadline, ” more than once – and sometimes the deadline became fuzzy, other times I worked long hours with quite a bit of stress and did the best I could.
And now: the programs are accredited; initial textbooks and lab equipment are in; a Dean has been hired; initial faculty have been hired; and students are being recruited. Classes begin for first year students September 14, and our official engineering inauguration is October 3. Hallelujah!!!
“When God expects big things, comfort isn’t part of the equation.”
One of my daily devotions recently was reflecting on Mark 6:35-44 in which Jesus and the disciples feed the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. In the past year and a half, some of you have heard me lament that I didn’t have the credentials or experience in engineering to feel comfortable attempting to pull off the audacious goal of bringing the engineering program to fulfillment. But when God is expecting big things, comfort isn’t part of the equation. The Reflections author writes, “Too often when we can’t imagine how to do all that needs to be done, we never start…” Thankfully, I had the audacity to start, and God helped turn my five loaves and two fishes into an engineering program!
But, of course, I didn’t do it alone. A deep seated principle of Ashesi boils down to this: when the going gets tough, everyone pitches in! Thanks to everyone who helped make the engineering program happen.
“A deep seated principle of Ashesi boils down to this: when the going gets tough, everyone pitches in!”



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