Dr Cynthia Omolola Adeokun
Department of Architecture, Covenant University, Nigeria
Dr Cynthia Adeokun receiving her Best Paper Prize in August 2013. The title of her paper was “The Orowa House: A typology of traditional Yoruba architecture in Ile-Ife, Nigeria
INTERVIEW WITH DR. CYNTHIA OMOLOLA ADEOKUN
Q. Please tell us a bit about yourself
A. I am an ARB (UK) registered architect with over 15 years professional experience in sports, retail and education architecture gained working in the UK, Kenya and Nigeria. In addition, I have a Ph.D. in Architecture (research focus: Domestic Space) from the University College London (2007). I speak fluent English and Yoruba, Conversational Brazilian Portuguese, and basic Italian, and I enjoy working with young and the elderly, travelling, and learning languages. Q. How would you describe your career experiences so far? How did you get into academia? A. I have enjoyed both my professional and academic career so far. I spent over 13 years working in private practice on a variety of really interesting projects, such as the All England Lawn Tennis Club (Centre Court Refurbishment), Wimbledon, Wembley National Stadium and Emirates Stadium, in the UK and in Kenya. I decided to take up an academic post about 3 years ago, because a wonderful opportunity came up in my home country Nigeria.
Q. What courses do you teach and what does your job entail?
A. I teach Design Studio, Acoustics and illumination, and Human Settlements at undergraduate and post-graduate levels, and I also supervise M.Sc. and Ph.D. students.
Q. What is your typical day in the office like?
A. A typical day in the office revolves around preparing lecture notes, lecturing, and dealing with my students on a one-on-one context, which I find most enjoyable. Students can provide unusual insights once one gains their confidence. The private university where I work is a Christian university where every lecturer is encouraged to take on an in loco parentis role, which I actually find quite rewarding (for the most part).
Q. How did you first hear about the WABER Conference and why did you decide to attend?
A. I first heard about WABER from a colleague at Covenant University (I think), and I decided to attend because I quite liked the idea of being connected to a network of Researchers who work in the West African/African context.
Q. What was your experience of attending the WABER Conference?
A. The first conference that I attended was WABER 2012 (Abuja). I was quite satisfied with the fact that I met many researchers from different universities in West Africa. I found some of the papers presented to be quite interesting and of good quality. However, I had to self-fund my participation in the conference which was a bit expensive, and as a result I stayed for 2 days (1 night) instead of 2 nights.
Q. How did you feel when you won the best paper prize in 2013?
A. I was so thrilled to find out that I had won the best research paper at the West Africa Built Environment Research (WABER) Conference in August 2013. To be honest, a part of me initially thought that the WABER Chairperson who phoned to inform me was pulling my leg
Q. How has winning the prize influenced your academic development?
A. Wining the prize had such a strong impact on me, particularly when I found out that the ‘reward’ for winning the WABER best paper prize included the ARCOM 2013 Travel Grant! The recognition and prize have definitely lent credence to my fledging academic career, and encouraged me to continue to strive for excellence in my writing endeavours.
Q. What research papers / projects are you working on at the moment?
A. I am currently working on a couple of papers/projects – one is on the link between the recruiting and learning process in architectural education and retention levels in the profession, and the other is on Innovative construction procurement in developing countries.
Q. What are your future aspirations and what do you need to do to get there?
A. My future aspiration is a perfect balance between working in academics and also in private practice on complex design projects. I certainly need to find a supportive private architecture firm that will allow me to divide my time between my two loves – practice and academics.
Q. What advise will you give to early career academics aspiring to develop their academic profile?
A. Get involved with attending international conferences, find a couple of academic mentors, who will help hone your writing skills.
Q. From your experience, what are the most difficult challenges facing built environment academics in our environment?
A. Getting free access to articles in high impact journals can be quite a problem (many universities do not provide free subscriptions to their staff), being able to afford the cost of attending international conferences (few universities fund such trips), accessing data about basic information about the built environment.
Q. Can you share some of the practical ways you have used to overcome the challenges?
A. Some conferences such as WABER already provide opportunities for researchers working in African institutions. Establishing databases for the built environment at a few host universities across the continent that is freely accessible to other institutions (improve publicity about existing data sources). Universities need to prioritise funding for both junior and senior researchers to attend relevant international conferences.
Q. What is your idea of good research and how can our academic institutions in Africa support lecturers like yourself to do and publish good research?
A. Good research must be based on a clearly defined premise, strong theoretical basis, clear methodology that is replicable and research outputs that are relevant to the immediate context, and well publicised particularly in terms of getting it into the hands of policy makers. Universities in Africa and the government sponsors must prioritise funding for such research. The link between good research and policy making must be strengthened.