Not many Nigerians have had the opportunity of being appointed chancellor of an European university. It is a rare feat that is achieved through hard work and a sterling track record. Yekemi Otaru, a Nigerian-born serial entrepreneur, has just been named the chancellor-elect of the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).
She seats on the board of Interface, a company that connects a wide range of organisations; from national and international industries to Scotland’s universities, research institutes, and colleges, matching them with world-leading academic expertise to help them grow.
Otaru is an author and a social media expert renowned for her innovative use of interactive online platforms.
But how exactly did the 42-year-old rise to be appointed chancellor of UWS?
Otaru, a recipient of four university degrees, hails from Oke-Ero LGA of Kwara state and received education both in Nigeria and overseas.
She attended Auntie Rose Primary School at Ugborikoko in Warri, Delta state, and then proceeded to the Federal Government College Warri, where she spent only one year before leaving the country to move to Oman with her parents in 1990.
While in Oman, Otaru continued her education at the American British Academy (ABA), a multi-racial high school in Muscat, but only spent four years there. She returned to Nigeria in 1994 to complete her secondary education at Greater Tomorrow Secondary School (GTSS), Benin City.
After completing her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 2003, she was selected by TotalFinaElf in Nigeria as one of the 20 pioneer intakes into the collaborative MSc petroleum engineering programme of France’s Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) and University of Port Harcourt.
At the end of the programme, she was one of the six members of the pioneer set to be offered permanent employment by TotalFinaElf.
She capped her academic pursuits with an MBA from Henley Business School in the UK.
When it comes to business, Otaru has been there, done that, and honoured for her innovation.
She has worked as a petroleum engineer with Total, as a software product manager with Schlumberger, and product manager with GE Oil & Gas — all in the UK.
After leaving her last employment with Lloyds Register, she established her first marketing consultancy company — Yo! Marketing — a digital and strategic marketing partner to knowledge-intensive sectors.
In 2016, shortly after she partnered with Sarah Downs to set up Doqaru Limited, a marketing consultancy company, she was named as one of 40 under 40 business innovators by Scottish Business News.
In 2018, she was appointed to the board of Interface, a public sector-backed establishment helping Scottish businesses work more closely with academic institutions to drive innovative projects.
IMPORTANT MOMENT IN UWS HISTORY
Commenting on her appointment as chancellor, Craig Mahoney, principal and vice-chancellor of UWS, said it is a remarkable milestone in the university’s history.
“This is a new journey for us, a young woman who comes with a fantastic background in engineering commitment. A woman in the business who would be an example for our students and our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” he said.
“I am delighted with Yekemi’s appointment as the University’s Chancellor-elect. Yekemi’s values very much align with those of UWS, from her passion for advancing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to her commitment to enterprise, and her appointment is reflective of our strategic mission to make a positive difference to wider society.”
MOTHER, WIFE, AND AUTHOR
Otaru is an author of a best-selling book — “Smart Skeptics Guide to Social Media in Organisations” — aimed at helping organisations leverage social media to promote enterprise.
She is married to Gabriel Otaru and they have two children — Tonitse and Titilayo.
According to a statement on the university’s website, she will take up the role of chancellor on September 1, 2021, succeeding Dame Elish Angiolini.
Otaru believes that “there is so much to look forward to working with the University of the West of Scotland” and added that she is “looking forward to inspiring the students’ community and just the general community in Scotland”.
“I’m looking forward to working with the University to achieve the goals that they have, the passion for education, continuing work with the community and widening that access. I’m also excited about some of the work the University is doing about diversity, equality and inclusion,” she said.