MARSHALL - Officials from Southwest Minnesota State University and Adeseye Royal College in Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria, initiated an educational collaboration Wednesday on the SMSU campus, building a bridge for brighter educational futures on an international level.
Jim Tate, SMSU communications director, pointed out that, while Nigerians call their school a "college," it would be the equivalent of high schools here in the United States.
"It's a terminology difference," Tate said. "They want to establish a relationship where they would mentor their students in Nigeria and prepare them for a four-year college education. Hopefully, that would be here. We think of it as a pipeline to Nigeria."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Southwest Minnesota State University Interim President Ron Wood, left, took a moment to pose with Sammy Ajibola, Abib Ajibola, Adetola Hammed Sadiku, Ade Sadiku and Semmy Oladokun after a ceremony Wednesday that acknowledged an educational collaboration between SMSU and Adeseye Royal College in Nigeria, a school that Ade Sadiku founded in 2009.
On behalf of SMSU on Wednesday, Interim President Ron Wood presented Ade Sadiku, founder and director of Adeseye Royal College, with a framed letter of intention, solidifying the collaboration partnership.
"If you build bridges between other educational organizations, then students who are looking back, when they're in what we refer to as 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grade, they're already starting to think about us, preparing for a commitment in their educational process," Wood said. "So, I think the more that we have these types of relationships with other countries, the stronger our international program will be."
While the collaboration doesn't officially begin until the 2014-15 school year, the excitement appears to be overwhelming in regards to the first-ever formal agreement of its kind at SMSU.
"It won't start until 2014-15, but that gives us the chance to prepare and for them to work, as they said, with the students," Wood said. "It's a great opportunity."
The school system in Nigeria consists of six years at the primary level, three years of junior high and three in senior high.
"It is a comprehensive school, including an advanced high school - the equivalent of our 11th and 12th grade," said Don Robertson, director of International Student Services at SMSU. "In many countries, typically a 'high school' stops in the 10th-grade and 'college' refers to that advanced level. A university is the term used for 'college.'"
Sadiku, who has been in the education sector in Nigeria for more than 40 years, is a strong advocate for post-secondary education. Once the permanent secretary for the state government in Nigeria, Sadiku now serves as director and manager of Adeseye Royal College, which he founded in 2009.
"We want to produce excellent graduates who go on," he said. "We don't celebrate high school because that's only a beginning. We want students to further their education."
Sadiku's son, Adetola "Tola" Hammed Sadiku, graduated from SMSU in 2006 with a degree in computer science and currently works at Ameripride Service Inc. in Minnetonka.
"Tola learned about SMSU through friends and family members who had been over here as well," Tate said. "That's what we find, too. A lot of our international recruiting is done through word of mouth through students who have been here and have had good experiences. It's quite unique."
Unfortunately, Tate said, the process for international students to get educational visas through their embassies is becoming more difficult these days. That includes students around the world, not just at SMSU, he said.
Scott Crowell, vice president of student affairs at SMSU, said he believed, in his opinion, that the difficulty is arising from the fact that so many international students are dropping off the grid.
"They'll come to an institution once they're approved, but then they can go to any institution they want and just be gone," Crowell said. "They can go to Texas and California and INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) kind of loses track of them."
Crowell added that 9/11 certainly didn't help the situation, but gradually, things are beginning to improve.
"Now, they're talking about starting to release more visas, but it's going to take a couple of years before it trickles down to the campuses," he said. "It's a process."
The collaboration between the two educational institutions will likely ease some stress for international students dealing embassy issues.
"During the process of helping students learn how to come to this country and go through the hoops that they need to do to become international students in the United States, (Nigerian officials) will point them in our direction," Tate said. "It doesn't guarantee that they'll come here, but during that process, they will speak highly of this university."
Tola Sadiku estimated that enrollment at Adeseye Royal College was approximately 300 students. Together with his father's guidance, which includes course work inspection and approval, and the partnership with SMSU, he said he believes that Adeseye Royal College students have a great opportunity in their future.
"It's very exciting," he said.