Dr Kulomri Jaule Adogbo
Department of Quantity Surveying, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
Dr Kulomri Adogbo receiving her Best Presentation Prize in June 2009. The title of her presentation was “An investigation into female construction undergraduates’ expectations towards practice”
INTERVIEW WITH DR. KULOMRI ADOGBO
Q. Please tell us a bit about yourself
A. I am a Lecturer in the Department of Quantity Surveying at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. I obtained my first degree in Quantity Surveying in 2001 and in 2006 I got a Masters degree in Construction Management from ABU, Zaria. I started working in the Department of Quantity Surveying in April 2007 and in 2009 I registered for a PhD in Quantity Surveying. This is significant because that was the first year that I attended the WABER conference. At the time I had a rather vague idea of what I wanted to do. The feedback I received on my presentation gave me direction and encouragement. I went on to complete the research successfully and received my Doctor of Philosophy degree in July 2013. My journey to the PhD took a firm root at the 2009 WABER Doctoral workshop and that is one reason why I always want to be at every WABER conference. My Doctoral research was on women in construction looking at the experiences of women at the threshold of graduation and at the point of entry into practice. My interests in gender studies are wide and include the education of girls in STEM, under-representation of women and their career impediments in the construction industry in Nigeria, the experiences of women in Quantity Surveying, challenging stereotypes about women in professional practice; professional and international networking / collaboration / partnership for, and by, women and role models, mentoring and career counselling – these interests have one all-encompassing aim i.e. improving the participation of women in the construction workplace. My personal interests outside of work are reading and music.
Q. How would you describe your academic / professional experiences so far?
A. My academic experience has been interesting so far with a lot of learning and growing. I have found it to be fulfilling and it is work that I look forward to. I simply love academic work. I love interacting with students and watching them grow, get educated and graduating. It is gratifying when I meet with graduates of the Department and I see them making a difference in their lives.
Q. How did you get into an academic career?
A. I had a lecturer during my undergraduate studies that always encouraged me and told me that one day when I graduate I would take over his table. It is interesting to note that as I write this interview sixteen years later, I am using the same desk that Hassan Aminu Kano used as a lecturer.
Q. What courses do you teach and what does your job entail?
A. The first course I taught was Construction Technology. Since then I have found myself teaching courses in two broad areas of Finance and Accounting, Management and Law. Apart from teaching I do a lot committee work and some of my administrative duties include: Post Graduate programmes coordinator and Budget and Expenditure control Officer.
Q. What is your typical day in the office like?
A. I usually start my days at 8.00a.m and my practice to check my mails and reply them, respond to any pending issues from the Head of Department or other authority. My lectures are usually scheduled between 9am and 1pm at the latest (I hate afternoon lectures!). The afternoon hours are usually spent attending to students’ supervision, preparing reports or other submissions for the Department. Somewhere in between I attend Departmental meetings, Faculty Board meetings and Postgraduate Board meetings among others.
Q. How did you first hear about the WABER Conference and what made you decide to attend?
A. The first time I heard about the WABER Conference was through the mails posted on CNBR by Samuel Laryea. My Head of Department at the time encouraged a number of us to attend particularly those of us registered for PhD programmes. The first WABER Conference was organised primarily for Doctoral candidates and I decided to attend because I wanted to hear what others would think about my work (I did not have a lot of confidence in my work at the time).
Q. What has been your experience of attending the WABER Conference?
A. Attending the WABER Conference over the years has been an enriching experience. I got some objective and very, very resourceful feedback that put me on a path of success for my PhD. One year I attended the conference with my six month old son Daniel and the organisers were very supportive and helpful with childcare. Ahmadu Bello University has a policy of sponsoring each academic staff to one academic conference per annum. I utilised my options on WABER. The money is never sufficient in any case but I was happy to supplement just so I could attend.
Q. How did you feel when you won the best presentation prize in 2009?
A. I won the prize for best presentation in 2009. Frankly, it was a surprise. I felt happy because it validated my research idea and it gave me some much needed confidence. The recognition also gave me notoriety (in a good way) and it made me a ‘legend’ of sorts in my Department/Faculty!
Q. How has winning the prize influenced your academic development?
A. The award of the WABER prize has made me more confident in my abilities and I understand that it was an affirmation which instilled in me a sense of dignity and respect. I try to encourage my students too and give them positive feedback and affirm them publicly because it adds a degree of self-worth to them as individuals.
Q. What research papers / projects are you working on at the moment?
A. Currently I have a couple of papers on gender that I am working on and some other subjects with my students – Infrastructure development, the use of BIM and also labour productivity.
Q. What are your future aspirations and what do you need to do to get there?
A. I love academic work and I hope to be able to travel to other institutions on short term basis to experience different learning environments and to learn lessons that can be shared/transferred at home. If I must get there I need to overcome my greatest personal limitation, ‘fear of the unknown’!
Q. What advise will you give to early career academics aspiring to develop their academic profile?
A. For early career academics who wish to develop their academic profile, I would recommend that they be willing to step out of their comfort zone and open up their work for discussion. No one is an island and the only way to grow is to grow both inside and outside of our locality – enough of being ‘local champions’.
Q. From your experience, what are the most difficult challenges facing built environment academics in our environment?
A. The most difficult challenges facing built environment academics in Africa is access to resources and materials for research. Quite often we find it hard to prioritise. For example I find myself bogged down half of the time with administrative work and attending to students that I barely have time to sit and write a good paper. What develops my academic profile are the papers I publish but most often than not it ends up very low on my list of priorities.
Q. Can you share some of the practical ways you have used to overcome the challenges?
A. I have had to learn to ask for help from colleagues and sometimes from my students! Also I have found that collaborating with other like-minded colleagues helps because it creates a sense of urgency in me. I have also found too that having a mentor helps – in my own case the people who have a lot of interest and influence in my academic growth hold me accountable and I find myself hard pressed not to disappoint them.
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. My idea of good research is a research that ‘makes sense’ and answers relevant issues in both academia and practice. There are research outcomes which sound so ‘scientific and academic’ but have little or no significance to practical problems facing Africa. Some studies are all well and good in China or Australia but our system in Africa is different and we need to find what works for us here rather than try to fit ourselves into an unworkable system. It is important for universities to provide an enabling environment for its academics. This includes providing ready financial resource but more than that they could also sponsor regular conferences and seminars; provide relevant e-resources for academics to gain access to research materials; encourage and support staff to go for exchange programmes; sometimes they may need to penalise academics who do not meet up with minimum requirement and on the flip side it will be useful to reward those who show initiative to do the right things.