By Steven Krolak
For Dr. Doyin Coker-Kolo, the journey from an elementary school teacher in Abeokuta, Nigeria to the position of dean of the School of Education at IU Southeast has been full of challenges, surprises, acts of grace and a constant devotion to learning.
Her extraordinary journey as an international scholar is the subject of her presentation, “From Nigeria to IU Southeast,” part of International Education Week at IU Southeast. It will also feature a “fashion show” of traditional Nigerian outfits and an inside look at Nigeria’s ethnic diversity, presented by the dean, members of her family and several members of the Student Education Association.
Coker-Kolo is one of six children from a family that prized education as the bedrock of identity and a pathway to social advancement. But that focus didn’t immediately translate into a teaching career. She had originally planned on a career as a pharmacist. But fate intervened, in the form of national politics.
“I became an educator by accident,” said Coker-Kolo.
She came of age at a time when the recently independent Nigeria decided to introduce universal primary education — but did not initially have enough teachers to make it a reality. Scholarships were offered to those willing to become teachers, and Coker-Kolo took advantage of these to become first an elementary, then a high school teacher, before attaining her bachelor’s degree in educational administration at the University of Lagos, in Lagos, Nigeria. Soon after, she was supervising programs at the Ministry of Education in her hometown of Abeokuta.
After several years in Canada, she and her family came to the U.S., where she entered graduate school at the University of South Carolina, working three jobs and caring for her son while obtaining first a master’s and then a doctorate degree in educational administration
As the chief administrative officer of the School of Education at IU Southeast since August, Dean Coker-Kolo appreciates a role that enables her to expand the education program and to have a direct influence in campus decision-making. She is passionate about creating pathways to leadership for faculty, staff and even for students. “We’re trying to grow people,” she said. “As a leader, you have opportunities to make a difference and a responsibility to help others identify their path, maximize their potential and become leaders themselves.”
She credits the culture of values in her family for her dedication to education, as well as her sense of self. It is that strong sense of heritage that keeps her close to her roots, despite the miles she has traveled.
“Identity defines and grounds you, and helps you to overcome obstacles,” said Coker-Kolo.
That identity is reflected in her research concentration at the intersection of her core values, personal biography and national policy: monitoring the attainment of universal basic education (a key Millennium Development Goal) in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Coker-Kolo will speak on her life in Nigeria and her journey as an international scholar in the IU Southeast library, room 330, on Thurs., Nov. 19 from 12:15-1 p.m.