OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi electrical engineering alumnus is among this year’s recipients of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
Chiedozie “Dozie” Ibekwe is the second UM graduate to win the full scholarship to the University of Cambridge. Sam Watson, a 2008 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, physics and classics, was the first UM recipient in 2009.
“I knew that I had just gotten a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ibekwe said. “I’ll study for a Master of Philosophy in public policy. After Cambridge, I will utilize my manufacturing and supply chain management expertise to advise African policymakers on crafting and executing effective industrial policies to boost manufacturing and diversify African economies.”
Ibekwe enrolled in UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College through its Junior Entry program and was ranked as the university’s best graduating engineering student in December 2011. He is slated to earn his Master of Professional Studies in supply chain management from Pennsylvania State University in August.
He has been employed by General Electric since graduating from UM, beginning as a lean manufacturing engineer in GE Energy’s aeroderivatives division in 2011. Since then, he has been a process improvement leader in GE Power and Water, a sourcing project manager on the Chevron Big Foot Project of GE Oil and Gas, a manufacturing operations leader for blowout preventers and a supplier quality engineer for GE Nigeria.
“My career goal is to use manufacturing, with localized supply chains, to drive development in Africa,” said Ibekwe, now lead buyer in the pressure control division of GE Oil and Gas in Houston, Texas.
Ibekwe is “a superb example of a citizen scholar,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, UM Honors College dean.
“Dozie studies, he analyzes and then he acts,” Sullivan-González said. “As an engineer or as a policy analyst, he has a gift for seeing how things can be better, and he consistently turns his own talents toward those efforts. We are immensely proud of what he has accomplished already and of what he plans to accomplish.”
At Ole Miss, Ibekwe was a summer research intern at both the Jamie L. Whitten National Center for Physical Acoustics and the University of Southern Mississippi. He won an award for best undergraduate research presentation at a state conference for the former and researched the development of a new technique in facial recognition at the latter.
“Professor Paul Goggans has been the most influential teacher in my life,” Ibekwe said. “He challenged me to be curious about the world. He always thought that I was capable of a lot more if I really applied myself.”
Ibekwe said William Shughart’s engineering economics class was the most important course in his undergraduate career.
“It got me thinking about the economics and sustainability of engineering and infrastructure projects,” he said. “Professor Shughart has been an excellent mentor, especially as I try to figure out possible solutions to Africa’s problems.”
Ibekwe also acknowledged several UM administrators who helped him achieve his goals.
“Ms. Toni Avant, the career center director, has been my go-to person for career coaching, still advising me to this day,” he said. “I had a strong support system through the Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education program, led by Ms. Jacqueline Vinson and Ms. Stephanie Brown.”
Faculty and staff members in the School of Engineering said Ibekwe’s latest accomplishment is part of his destiny and the lasting legacy he is building.
“The selection committee of the 2012 Outstanding Senior Leadership Award knew he’d bring honor to the School of Engineering as a professional,” said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics. “Once again, Dozie’s exceeding our expectations.”
Other honors and recognitions Ibekwe received include Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Distinguished Scholar Award, National Society of Black Engineers Fellow, ExxonMobil Scholar, Board of Corporate Affiliates Scholar, John G. Adler Engineering Scholarship, Outstanding Engineering Senior Award and GE African American Forum Icon Award.
“Eventually, I hope to become a Nigerian policymaker,” Ibekwe said. “In addition to addressing infrastructure challenges that hinder manufacturing, I am interested in engaging the Nigerian private sector to develop the manufacturing capabilities and human capital in Nigeria.”
His leadership experiences include the UM International Student Organization, serving as treasurer; Toastmasters International; GE Houston Club, in which he served as treasurer; Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, where he served as director of education; GE African American Forum, serving as professional development committee co-chair; GE recruiter at the National Association of Black Accountants annual conference; and GE/Alpha Phi Alpha College-to-Corporate Program. Ibekwe has volunteered at Second Baptist Church in Oxford, the Martin Luther King Memorial dedication, Thompson Elementary School in Houston, Engineers Without Borders and the Rotary Club of West Houston.
In his spare time, Ibekwe enjoys playing soccer as a goalkeeper. He won the UM Intramural Outdoor and Indoor Soccer Championships and was a runner-up in the Oxford City League. He plays in the Houston Football Association.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship, open to citizens of any country outside the United Kingdom, provides a full-cost scholarship to Cambridge for a post-graduate degree. Established in 2000 through a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Trust has selected more than 1,300 scholars from some 100 countries. It makes 95 awards each year, 40 to applicants from the U.S. and 55 to applicants from other countries.
For more about the scholarship, visit http://www.gatescambridge.org/.