Faculty Focus – Joel Okafor, social sciences instructor

The Lake County campus is pleased to welcome back an instructor who taught his last class here in the summer of 2007. If you are thinking about taking Criminal Justice Administration 333 Terrorism in March, take a few minutes to learn more about Joel Okafor:

Where are you from?

I believe in global citizenship, but I am a citizen of two countries: Nigeria and the United States.

I was born at Awka, Anambra state, one of the 36 states of Nigeria, and feel very blessed to hold American citizenship as well. The opportunity to live in America is the high point of my American dream, blessing and experience. It is humbling because I know many people who would like to become Americans. I have some family members in California and a few here in the Chicago land area.

What degrees do you hold, and where did you earn them?

After completing high school in Nigeria, I moved to Ontario, Canada to purse higher education. I hold a diploma in radio and television journalism from Lambton College of Applied Arts and Technology in Sarnia, Ontario, and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Windsor, Ontario. While completing my master’s degree I took courses on United States-Canadian relations and developed a unique and great appreciation of the United States.

Tell us about your teaching experience and work history.
My love for teaching began at the University of Windsor during my graduate studies. The university offered me a two-year scholarship and graduate fellowship to enable me to finish my education. As part of my fellowship, I supervised undergraduate tutorials and guided students as they wrote research essays. This was how I fell in love with what professors did for a living.

Teaching is more than work for me; it is my calling. I teach because I enjoy it. Since 1990 I have been teaching political science, history and philosophy at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and have also taught in the Lewis University Correctional Education Program. My teaching career with Columbia College began in 1995, and has included courses in third world politics, international relations, philosophy and the dynamics of terrorism. These have been among my most exciting and enjoyable teaching assignments. Once you adjust to the five-hour classes, a skill I learned from teaching here, you will realize that the time goes by quickly if you are having fun.

What do you most enjoy about teaching?

Teaching sometimes produces surprising and unexpected results. For example, Tara Caldara, a graduate of Columbia College who went on to complete a master’s degree in library science, contacted me last December. She told me, “I have been thinking of you and wanted to wish you happy holidays…you still inspire me all the time…I’ve been selected to be a mentor in I LEAD U, a library technology program through the Illinois State Library.” She only took two classes from me many years ago, yet the knowledge she gained in my classroom has endured, allowing her to now make a difference as a mentor at the state level. I also enjoy teaching because it has enabled me to meet people from all walks of life. While I have affected many people throughout my career, influence is not a one way street. Many of my American students have shown me new ways of looking at issues and I am richer for it.

I am extremely gratified to be returning to Columbia College because it is a unique institution with dedicated students from all walks of life. It provides a unique approach to education, which has opened doors to those who, under normal circumstances, would not have had the time and money to pursue their degree while working full-time. The goals and values of the college are the reason it has successfully served students and their communities so well, and is a primary reason I love to teach here.

What advice do you have for students taking your class this spring?

My central commitment is to deliver an excellent experience to my students, but I am not the most important member of the class. The student is the most important member of the class. If there are no students, there will be no classes. Therefore, I tell my students to “be prepared” like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Preparation is the key to achieving the goals you have set for your career. Also, remember to demand that objectives set out in the class syllabus are covered to your satisfaction. Hold me accountable because I will demand the same quality and accountability from all of you.

I look forward to meeting you, and want you to be prepared to do the necessary readings, beginning from the first class. It is important that you seek guidance and begin assignments early. Most importantly, you need to participate in the class discussions and extend warm and cordial relations to all members of the class. Remember, the semester will end, but knowledge endures.

I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to Director Stephen Stephany and Associate Director Lyndon Russell for helping to make this opportunity possible. I look forward to meeting all of the other members of the Lake County staff and faculty.