From his early years at the American University of Nigeria(AUN), Tekena Williams showed uncommon talent. Popularly known as TK, he earned a reputation for his artistic inclinations. Spotting dreadlocks with a camera slung across his shoulders, he was a regular sight at many university events.
Quiet and unassuming, Tekena seemed to be the stark opposite of the usual countenance of popular students in school. Perhaps, his most memorable achievement while at AUN was the years he spent as President of the Campus Activities Board. He made sure the social calendar was full, inviting Nigerian artists such as Falz, Koker, Dice Ailes, Idowest, and Eeskay to perform at concerts.
“There was a semester when I had to juggle between my academics, being a Residence Assistant, Campus Activities Board President, and being a senator in the Student Government Association. It definitely wasn’t easy. But managing my time and staying organized through all these activities kept me on my toes and has helped in achieving a lot of my goals.” Tekena said.
Indeed, the student body appreciated All of Tekena’s hard work. 4th-year Communications Major, Farida Muhammad recalls, “Tk to us all was one of the best CAB presidents because he made sure there was never a dull weekend and made it worth going for events. There was always something to look forward to after a stressful week. Said Farida.
Fast forward to graduation and life in the real world. Tekena is now a successful cinematographer, making adverts for skincare brands, restaurants, and other multinationals. He recently returned from Namibia where he shot a food documentary for a popular chef in Abuja. He owes part of his success to the unique education he received. He majored in TV& Film at the Communications & Multimedia Design (CMD) program at AUN.
“ I am going to rate AUN number one in terms of CMD, when I talk about my department to people from other schools they are always like wow. There is a very functional studio. Students have access to all the equipment they need. I mean, there was constantly a budget for getting new equipment for the studio to keep us updated and to prepare us for what real life is about. In some schools, some students studied mass communication and never held a camera. My department CMD is very well equipped. Our instructors are top-notch and have a way of pushing us to do things outside our strength and our curriculum.”
The Communications & Multimedia Design program at AUN is in a league of its own. With a variety of concentrations from Public Relations, Radio, TV & Film, Journalism, and Multimedia Design. Department Chair, Dr. Suleiman Amu is tasked with steering the affairs of the department on a day-to-day basis. He believes the unique approach to knowledge is one of the secrets of CMD’s success.
“CMD has graduated students who are doing well in their respective fields. But one of the tools AUN and the CMD department gives students is the development approach that we take in training our students. We are trying to create problem solvers and free thinkers.” Said Dr. Suleiman.
When it comes to higher education, Dr. Suleiman knows his onions. Before joining AUN, he worked at the University of East Anglia in Britain. Coming to AUN, it was inevitable he would compare AUN to East Anglia.
“I was pleasantly surprised that AUN is this good and to be honest I can’t compare it to any other university in the country. It is a fantastic place. First of all the classes are small so instructors tend to have that engagement with students in ways that are impossible with large classes. The liberal arts education system is the reason it is an American university. We train students to be generalists in some sense and specialists in another sense”.
TK’s specialization in TV & Film turned out fortunate for him and Dr. Suleiman couldn’t be any prouder of his achievements.
“TK was a good student when he was here. In one of my discussions with him, he told me that he was here on scholarship and I was impressed seeing as I was also on scholarship for my Ph.D. I am very proud of him even more now hearing that he is doing well in the cinematography field”. Said Dr. Suleiman.
The CMD department has proven to be a breeding ground for one-of-a-kind talent. With state-of-the-art equipment at the multimedia design lab for students to gain necessary knowledge and skills. The department also has a radio lab, which broadcasts live via an online radio channel.
“First we are the only university in Nigeria that has a program called Communication & Multimedia Design. The equivalent of our program in other schools is mass communication or media and arts. Our program also comes with specialization, which is also not common among universities in the country. CMD, first of all, gives students background and basic understanding of four specializations, and eventually, in their 4th year, they are asked to pick a concentration between radio, Tv and film, journalism, public relations, and advertising or multimedia design. We are also the only university in Nigeria that offers multimedia design as a program, not a course.” Said, Dr. Suleiman
AUN’s Vice President for University Relations (VPUR), Abba Tahir, also served as an Adjunct Professor at CMD.
“At AUN students have bigger options with a larger opportunity. The flexibility of the American academic tradition has contributed remarkably to not only Tekena's success but to the success of every student who passed through AUN. Tekena loves class, he loves his colleagues, He was an excited student, above all Tekena is Tekena.”
The VPUR described AUN as a convergence and confluence center for a broad education, a rare educational system in this part of the world that gives students the options and opportunity to aspire to the sky.
Professors and administrators alike are vested in students' success even after graduation. This no doubt lays the foundation for a thriving scholarly and entrepreneurial community. The tentacles of the AUN network of alumni and staff spread beyond the shores of Africa. That is why Tekena’s former professors speak so proudly of his achievements.
Now making his mark in the world, Tekena looks back fondly at his time on Campus.
“AUN is a replica of the real world. It is so liberal and teaches us to be free thinkers, at AUN you have the opportunity to make mistakes and correct them without any consequences, but in the real world we are not given that opportunity.”
Undoubtedly Tekena’s musings and success are manifestations of insights gained from a distinctive vantage point, miles ahead of his counterparts who were not as fortunate to receive an education in Africa’s premier development university.
Reported by Praise Yakubu