Follow us:

Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

December 4, 2013 at 4:04 PM

Ashesi breaks ground on engineering school

Ashesi University, the independent African school started by Microsoft veteran Patrick Awuah, is starting its next phase of growth.

a4

Ashesi image

Construction has started on a building to house a new engineering program on Ashesi’s campus in a suburb of Accra, Ghana.

The engineering building (shown in a rendering above) is designed to accommodate 300 students after it opens in 2015 and to complement Ashesi’s other degree programs, in business and computer science.

“We think this is an opportunity for job growth and innovative new solutions, and it’s a great mix with the computer science and business majors because they can work together as a team,” said Ruth Warren, a Seattle-based trustee of the school.

Awuah left Microsoft in 1997 to start the university in his native Ghana; the first classes began in 2002. The school moved in 2011 from rented space to its own campus, which now has about 600 students but room to grow eventually to perhaps 2,000 students.

Engineering Block_Proposed_2

The goal was to provide an Ivy League caliber education to produce ethical leaders for Africa. Graduates have gone on to work for local and multinational companies and start their own companies on the continent.

Warren said engineering graduates may help with other regional challenges. The school is working with Stanford, the University of Waterloo and other North American universities to develop a curriculum focused in part on rapid prototyping and product development.

“Africa really needs improved, smarter infrastructure, and they also need innovative, affordable new products to meet local needs,” she said. Right now, things tend to be designed by American engineers and then manufactured in China and by the time they’re deployed in Ghana, if they’re not exactly right, it’s a long cycle to make a change.”

Another goal of the engineering program is to produce more women engineers. The mix of male to female graduates in other programs is about 50-50 and Ashesi is hoping for a similar balance in engineering, though that’s an ambitious goal, Warren said.

“I always hear of repairs to our nation’s facilities being delayed because Ghana has to bring in expertise from overseas to fix the problem,” Ashesi Student Council President Michael Quansah said in a release. “This is not because we don’t have engineers in Ghana, but it’s because our education systems do not prepare them well enough to tackle these problems. The delivery of quality education, that can be immediately applied to solve the problems we face, is needed.”

So far Ashesi has raised $3.4 million of the $4.7 million needed for the engineering building and a forthcoming mechanical engineering wing. The largest portion came from a $1 million grant from Stanford supporters Robert and Dottie King. Several anonymous Seattle area donors — including at least one with Microsoft connections — have provided $500,000 matching grants for two years in a row.

At a groundbreaking ceremony a few weeks ago, Awuah (in white shirt with pickaxe) was joined by the local chief and elders.

Ashesi photo

Ashesi photo

 

 

Comments | Topics: Africa, Ashesi University, Education

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►