From Nigeria to Kentucky, doctoral graduates have pursued educational policy and careers in analysis

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 20, 2023) While working in his home country of Nigeria at the University of Ibadan, it became clear to Olumuyiwa Moses Desmennu that pursuing a Ph.D. is essential for his professional advancement and personal fulfillment.

Last week, he celebrated the completion of that goal as he walked across the University of Kentucky’s commencement stage to receive his Ph.D. in educational sciences, but his path from Nigeria to Kentucky was a much longer journey.

He initially considered pursuing a part-time doctoral program in Nigeria, but it was a difficult commitment to make, given the extended duration it would require. Life is full of family responsibilities, which add complexity to the choice.

By what I consider to be divine providence, my status has shifted from a staff member to a university teacher, making a doctoral degree a mandatory requirement, he said.

With increasing urgency, the Desmennus path to achieving a Ph.D. began to harden. The journey began when he received news that his application to the IREX University Administration Support Program was successful, giving him the opportunity to study and understand the research management infrastructure in the UK.

During this visit, the idea of ​​pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Kentucky began to take shape, Desmennu said. Without hesitation, I arranged a meeting with the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation. The encounter was very warm and encouraging, prompting me to immediately submit my application for a doctoral degree.

While visiting the UK, she immediately recalled the feeling of belonging, and excitedly called her husband to discuss returning to Kentucky. After securing funding from the Tertiary Education Trust fund (TETFund) to facilitate his participation in the doctoral program, Desmennu and his family took the plunge.

The Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation program provides an environment where a person can truly grow, he said. My interactions with all of my teachers, especially my counselor, transcend the confines of the classroom. The faculty and staff are not only professional but incredibly warm and compassionate.

Before pursuing his doctorate, Desmennus’ interest in pursuing a career in educational research and policy was launched when he assumed the role of inaugural research administrator in the Research Management Office at the University of Ibadan.

This marked the beginning of an emerging field, presenting many learning opportunities. The director, fresh from studying the research management infrastructure of a US university, is passionately committed to optimizing service delivery, which has created a conducive environment for my own learning journey. -student An important aspect was participating in needs assessment surveys, where I gained hands-on experience in developing survey instruments, conducting surveys, analyzing data, and subsequent implementation and reporting. of the findings to the university administration, he said.

In this role, he wants to develop skills beyond his undergraduate studies in biochemistry. In 2015, he discovered that the master’s program in educational evaluation at the Institute of Education, University of Ibadan, was perfectly in line with his aspirations, prompting him to apply.

As I immersed myself in the program, my appetite for knowledge in this field continued to grow. Working within the university context, it became increasingly apparent that pursuing a doctoral degree was important, he said.

At the same time, Desmennu actively pursues training opportunities within his university and beyond. Many of the grants under his management came from international sources, so he received invitations from various platforms to undergo training in best practices in research management.

These training sessions became an important moment in my professional development, which led to a growing interest in program evaluation. This new passion led me to look for an academic path that could provide me with the necessary skills, he said.

This growing interest, along with a series of pivotal moments playing out in his career, culminated in his transfer to Kentucky.

Among his fondest memories in the UK are moments where teachers have shown their support in times of uncertainty, such as in 2020 when news broke of protests against police brutality in Nigeria.

When it came to class, my teacher and colleagues expressed genuine concern, offering outlets of support within the university, he said. They even excused me from class to allow me to monitor events at home and ensure the safety of my family members in Nigeria.

She found support again, two years later, when one of her children faced visa challenges after high school, made more complicated by a backlog created, in part, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

My advisor stepped in, connected me to resources both inside and outside the university, who continued to monitor progress. Opportunities like this, among many others, really endeared me to the department and the university, he said.

Since enrolling at UK, Desmennu has seen a marked improvement in his proficiency in both quantitative and qualitative analysis. He has developed proficiency using analytical software such as Winsteps, MPLUS, STATA, R, NVIVO, Qualtrics, Dedoose, as well as visualization tools such as Google Charts and Tableau. At the same time, his writing, public speaking and leadership skills have seen significant development, evidenced by his leadership roles in various initiatives within the Graduate Student Congress, Nigerian Graduate Student Association, Student Parent Organization, church, and the International Student Concerns Committee. Additionally, she has led initiatives aimed at helping new students integrate into the community and has regularly served as a student facilitator during the graduate student orientation program at the University of Kentucky International Center.

With his Ph.D., Desmennu is ready to take the next step in his career.

The evaluation landscape is undergoing constant evolution, particularly in response to the dynamic and complex challenges currently facing education, he said. It is imperative that evaluation techniques are customized to assess the suitability of solutions proposed for dealing with these complexities. My goal is to engage in collaborative efforts with fellow reviewers to streamline these complexities, aiming for a comprehensive and equitable education system that provides unrestricted access to all individuals.

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