Friday, January 18, 2013

Interview with Ndubisi Okeke, president of Johns Hopkins African Student Association


Ndubisi Okeke, President of the Johns Hopkins African Student Association


Johns Hopkins University is one of the prestigious schools in the country and just like every other school, it has its own different student organizations. One of which is the African Students Association. Ndubisi Okeke, a student of Johns Hopkins is the current president of the organization.
 
      Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a Nigerian American, born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m a public health studies major at Johns Hopkins University and I hope to become a cardiologist in the future. I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve had so far in my life. I’m also a big sports fan! 

·        Briefly enlighten us, what is the organization “Johns Hopkins African Students Association” about?
We are an organization dedicated to the education of the entire Johns Hopkins community at large of the different cultures that comprise the African continent. We also work to provide a network of support for African students at Johns Hopkins. We are a service as well as social organization that educates as well as entertains. We try to be whatever the students need us to be.

·        Johns Hopkins University is one of the prestigious universities in the country and people have very high expectations for anything associated with the school. Do you feel any pressure as the president of one of the organizations of a prestigious school?
The University’s reputation doesn’t factor in a whole lot when it comes to the pressure of the job. Like any leadership position, this is pressure in a sense when things go right you get a pat on the back and when things go wrong all fingers point to you.  I’ll admit I tried to handle too much on my own early on because of this. I had to learn to rely more on the people around me to successfully run the organization. The e-board has done a great job supporting me and executing their duties so the workload is distributed.

·        Your organization’s E-board is not strictly Africans as some might expect. This is great because it shows how you have brought in people of other non-African cultures.  Looking beyond the E-board would you say your organization has done very well with bringing many people of non African cultures into your organization and making them interested your organization?  
The diversity we have at our ASA meetings is one aspect of the past semester I am most proud of.  The JHU campus is a very unique place; a predominantly white institution with a significant amount of international students and small but strong minority communities. The e-board made it a point this year to try and increase the diversity of our members while not forgetting our purpose and target audience.  We have been able to attract members from all regions of Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, and of course the U.S.  

·         African students face different struggles on campuses especially those with the ‘African Accent’ and some other traits indigenous to Africans. How has your organization helped with such struggles?
ASA has always been a place where students can come to learn something new, discuss something interesting, or just chill and hang out.  Hopkins is a great place for international students and students of different cultural backgrounds.  African students don’t necessarily struggle because of their culture, but our role is to provide a relaxed environment where they can be comfortable with who they are and express their cultural side.

·        What has the African Students Association done and still do (events held/steps taken..) to educate others , rid misconceptions of Africa and make other non-Africans interested in learning more about Africa and being a part of the different African cultural activities?
Education is one of the main reasons for the existence of our ASA. Every meeting we highlight current events and interesting information happening in Africa. We then have a presentation or discussion on a certain topic of interest from music or sports to heavier topics that effect the continent today. Our annual jeopardy event is always fun and we recently have been able to get professors to come and speak.

·         Do you network with other African Associations at other schools? What are some of the other schools you most commonly network with/have programs or events with?
We network with most of the schools in the DMV area and we are all very connected.  We have meetings in the summer to discuss dates for events and other general ideas for collaboration. It gets pretty exciting during “ASA season” when all the schools are having events towards the end of the fall and spring semesters. It’s an opportunity to go to other campuses, meet new people, and see what the other schools have been working on.  We all try to communicate as much as possible to create an ultimate DMV ASA experience.    

·         How do you juggle your responsibilities as a student with your responsibilities as the president of the organization?
I alluded to it earlier in the interview but the simplest way to not drown yourself with stress is to trust the people around you. Just because you have the title of president doesn’t mean you’re superman. I and everyone on the executive board are students at school before anything else and we took on the additional responsibility of running an organization. The only way it works is if everyone does their part.  It does get difficult depending on the time of year and what we have planned but the best part is there is always help!

·         Every organization has its goals/purpose as a whole. As the president, what are your personal goals for this organization? What would you like to see happen during your term as president of the African Students Association?
I think the objective is always to do more and get better. I want to keep increasing the diversity of our members and be able to appeal to both Africans and non-Africans. I also want to get more of our students to off campus ASA events. It’s a great way for them to get away from their school work and engage with different people. I think we have done well so far but we will always have room to grow.

E-Board of Johns Hopkins African Student Association


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