Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I chose to pursue a graduate degree in order to increase my understanding of forest peoples in sub-Saharan Africa and the policies that affect them. I am especially thrilled to be conducting research on topics that I am passionate about and that could have a significant impact on the lives of marginalized people. My long-term career objective is to work for the United Nations in a policy- and decision-making capacity to aid in the sustainable management of our planet's natural resources. I believe a doctoral degree will better equip me to take up this role in the near future.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
I first heard about UBC during one of the classes I took with a professor during my second year of undergrad in Nigeria. The professor described how prestigious the university was, having had his sabbatical there in the early 2000s. After completing my undergraduate degree, I did a lot more research about prospective universities that I could approach for graduate studies. UBC was one of the universities that stood out, especially with the ranking of the Faculty of Forestry as one of the top universities to study forestry globally. In 2017, I was awarded the prestigious MasterCard Foundation Scholarship to pursue a master's degree at the Faculty of Forestry at UBC which I completed in 2020. For my doctorate work, I knew UBC was the place to be because of the incredible mentors, peers, and connections I had made here. It was also an opportunity to build on the life changing academic experience UBC has offered me. Simultaneously, I was enthusiastic about the prospect of continuing to work with my doctoral advisor, Dr. Terry Sunderland, and his research team.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
In my experience, getting to study at UBC is very competitive especially with securing a professor that is available and willing to supervise your research. What caught my attention was the amazing research being done by these professors and I was very interested in benefiting from their supervision and mentorship. My supervisor, Dr. Terry Sunderland, is a leading scholar on the biological and human dimensions of the sustainable management and utilization of tropical forests with decades of experience in West Africa and Southeast Asia. The incredible support from administrative staff which I enjoyed during my masters program is also a major attraction to the program.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I'm not sure how long one has to live in Vancouver to be considered a Vancouverite, but I've been here for approximately 6 years. However, in 2017, when I first moved here and was experiencing life outside of my home country for the first time, things looked very different - the culture, food, infrastructure, and environment (parks and beaches all around) were some of the finest surprises I discovered about living in Vancouver. I was also shocked to see practically everyone on the bus with their ears plugged in, because in my culture, people on the bus converse about various topics of interest, and anyone can join in. To be honest, the educational structure at UBC is considerably different from what I was accustomed to during my undergraduate studies. Staff and faculty members provide remarkable assistance to students. It was difficult at first to sit in a class where I was the only African student. But after a while, I felt at ease and able to relate to everyone I met.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I am enjoying most, if not all aspects of my graduate program. I enjoy the research travels related to my PhD work, which include short field visits, conference and longer fieldwork trips. These trips allow me to interact with peers and respected academics in my field as well as stakeholders in the community where I work (e.g., traditional chiefs, academics, government officials, residents, etc.). Along with that, I also enjoy brainstorming ideas with my lab colleagues and working on different research projects. I also had the wonderful opportunity to mentor undergraduate students and work as a teaching assistant in undergraduate courses.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
I am enjoying most, if not all, aspects of my graduate program. I enjoy the research travels related to my PhD work, which include short field visits, conferences, and longer fieldwork trips. These trips allow me to interact with peers and respected academics in my field as well as stakeholders in the community where I work (e.g., traditional chiefs, academics, government officials, residents, etc.). Along with that, I also enjoy brainstorming ideas with my lab colleagues and working on different research projects. I also had the wonderful opportunity to mentor undergraduate students and work as a teaching assistant in undergraduate courses. I have developed resilience and adaptable skills in the course of my previous degrees, both at UBC and prior. I also have a strong support network of family, friends, mentors, and colleagues that believe in me and are willing to assist me anytime I need help. My enthusiasm and dedication to excellence in all I do are a big part of why I am here today. This has not changed and will undoubtedly see me through my doctoral program.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
In my spare time, I enjoy going to the movies and binge-watching Netflix with my wife. I use social media, especially Twitter. I also frequently hang out with my friends. As a hobby, I've taken up amateur swimming. I've been taking swimming lessons at the UBC Aquatic Centre. On long weekends, my wife and I take short journeys to various tourist attractions throughout British Columbia.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
I will advise new graduate students to enjoy all that graduate studies and the city has to offer. They should be deliberate in their actions and ensure they are making the right choices and connections that will be useful in achieving their future aspirations. In addition, grad students should plan and strive to maintain a life outside the lab - get a hobby, join a student club and be part of a community.
Outside of your academic work, what are the ways that you engage with your local or global community? Are there projects in particular that you are proud of?
I give my time and talents to a variety of programs and organizations that interest me. Currently, I serve as a member of the Advisory Group of the Commonwealth Forestry Association (CFA), the United Kingdom. In this role, I contribute distinct youth perspectives and voices to many forestry issues that are being debated. For two years in a row, I have led the Black History Month Initiative at the Faculty of Forestry to recognize past and present black students and organize social activities during the month. In addition, I am co-conceptualizing a long-term vision to establish a black student group in my Faculty.