Sometimes in life, we are called upon to something bigger and better, something selfless.
Such was the case with one Ghanaian man who left his Microsoft job to return to his native country to start a university, building up tomorrow’s engineers and future leaders.
“It is amazing to change somebody’s life and to be part of that,” said Ashesi University founder Patrick Awuah. “I have students and alumni who I know would be in a very different place had they not come to Ashesi University.”
Awuah left his native Ghana to find a better education in the United States.
“I was totally fascinated with the strength of U.S. engineering. The space shuttle, fiber optic networking, literally communication at the speed of light was just really fascinating to me, and I wanted to come here,” said Awuah.
After college, he worked for Microsoft for almost a decade.
“I was recruited to work in the division that was working on building the networking infrastructure for Microsoft software operating systems,” he said. “I worked on dial-up networking. I worked on defining the interfaces that allowed our software to work with different manufacturer’s hardware.”
But working at a big name company wasn’t enough for Awuah. He wanted to do more, by bringing something very valuable home.
“Start up a university that would bring the kind of education that I had experienced here to Ghana,” said Awuah.
And that’s exactly what he did in Ghana by starting up Ashesi University. Through the help of Microsoft employees, alumni, and start-up donations, Patrick raised, $15 million from 1999 through 2011 to launch the university in 2002.
“The human capital was not being developed at the level it needed to be. And this was a clue that maybe I should be looking at something more fundamental. I decided to do engineering and do education and higher education,” said Awuah.
With an emphasis on engineering, computer science and business management with a liberal arts foundation, Ashesi University is helping students grow in a way they have never been able to before.
“All of our students get jobs or start their own businesses to get to grad school within six months of graduating. We have a very strong output coming out of our institution. We made gender balance important goal for our institution,” said Awuah.
Awuah continues to strive for his people. He has revamped the university’s curriculum with new majors, and he’s created an enabling environment, to better prepare students. Microsoft employees and alumni serve on Ashesi University Foundation’s Board of Trustees and advise on the computer science curriculum.
In 2002, Awuah’s dream started with this university and 30 students. Now more than a decade later with 800 plus co-ed students, like Yawa Hansen-Quao, who have graduated, his dream has been realized.
“The fact that I could get a liberal arts education in Ghana really appealed to me as well,” said Hansen-Quao. “So I felt by applying to Ashesi I would be getting a world-class education while at the same time being able to live in Ghana and contribute to Ghana’s development as well.”