Thursday, August 18, 2011
A New Beginning - Ashesi University
This Monday was my first day at Ashesi University. After five years at Methodist University, I was ready for a change, and the Ashesi approach to private tertiary education in Ghana was and is compelling.
Ashesi, which means "Beginning" in the Akan language, was founded in 2005. Next week, students will be joining us on a brand new campus in Berekuso, atop a hill overlooking Accra. As you can see from the photos at the last link, the facilities are in a lush, somewhat cooler climate than the lower elevations. The first phase of construction has the library at the highest point, with three other wings containing faculty offices, administration, and classrooms. Adjoining the Founder's Quad is the dining area. The hostels (dorms) which will house 60 male and 240 female students, (out of this year's expected population of 500 students) are below that. The rest of the students will be renting space elsewhere and commuting.
WAEC (West Africa Exams Council) has delayed the testing and reporting of WASSCE (West Africa Senior Secondary School Certification Exams, the analog of SATs in the USA) results this year. Thus, Ashesi's admission decisions will be delayed and our first year students will not be coming to the campus until October 24.
I am glad to be in an office with a window out onto the central courtyard, with windows that open on two sides for ventilation. So far, I have not turned on the air conditioning, but all the rooms are so equipped. They were able to provision computer and email on my first day, impressive!
Alex Inkoom, the HR Manager had organized a two-day program to orient new staff. We heard from the founder, the dean of students, academic dean, facilities manager, librarian, nurse, as well as the career services and IT directors. We also saw a quick run-through of Ashesi's computerized LMS (Learning Management System), called FOCUS. It is based upon Moodle, which I had already used.
I was inspired by the founder's address, which outlined the mission and some of the strategic decisions that have been made recently. It was refreshing to hear that Ashesi will not copy the recent explosive growth in size of both public and other private university colleges. Knowing that a school of 500 to 2000 students is an entirely different place than one of 5000 or 10,000 is important. The impact on the students can be significant in a smaller school, as I have been reading in the book "Colleges That Change Lives" by Loren Pope. With any luck, the new campus will greatly increase the number of candidates applying for admission. Coupled with a limited population, this could mean a student body with fewer students from the lower half of their high schools.
This term I will be teaching Quantitative Methods. Fortunately, the content is rather similar to a combination of the statistics and Operations Research classes I have been teaching at MUCG. Also, I share an office with Andrew Nunekpeku, who has taught the class before, and who will be teaching the other section. Still, starting on Monday will be a challenge to my organizational skills.
Much of the staff is riding Ashesi's GET (Ghana Education Trust) Fund-supplied bus back and forth to work, which is a good thing since the road to Berekuso from Kwabenya looks like a minefield. Ken says the video looks like an amusement park ride! In one section, half the road has completely washed away. Mary Kay has been dropping me off at 6:40 a.m. and picking me up at 6:45 p.m. from the former campus, which will be the first stop for the bus until Ashesi establishes a smaller satellite office in Accra somewhere for admissions processing after the new year.
Thursday, the IP telephones were labeled and plugged in, and the network engineer was programming the main switch. He trained us on how to use the new phones this afternoon.
At lunch Thursday, a fourth-year student working on a research project with the dean asked me what brought me to Ghana. He was a bit surprised when I answered "God did," but was interested in hearing about The Jackson Journey.
Lamentations 3:22-23 Because of the LORD's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.