Watch: Patrick Awuah '89 Talks Inspiration
for Founding Ashesi University in Ghana
by Alisa Giardinelli
Patrick Awuah '89 had never heard of the liberal arts model of education before he applied to study in the U.S. Now, as founder and president of Ashesi University in Ghana, he is using that model to fundamentally alter the character and quality of leadership in Africa.
"Only five percent of college-age kids in Ghana go to college," he said recently at Zeitgeist. "The thing about five percent is that it's too small, and it also means that, by definition, the people fortunate to go to college in Ghana will run the country one day. So, I felt, this is a catalytic thing. I can get engaged with this and make a difference."
Ashesi opened in 2002 with 30 students. In August 2011, Awuah helped dedicate the school's new campus, which will eventually accommodate 2,000 students.
Before founding Ashesi, Awuah worked as a program manager for Microsoft, where he spearheaded the development of dial-up internetworking technologies and gained a reputation for bringing difficult projects to completion. His numerous awards include membership of the Order of the Volta, in recognition of his service to Ghana, the Young Global Leader 2007 by the World Economic Forum, and in 2009, the John P. McNulty Prize, Aspen Institute, which recognizes extraordinary young leaders making creative and lasting contributions to their community.
Awuah graduated with degrees in engineering and economics from Swarthmore, which awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2004. He also earned an MBA from UC-Berkeley's Haas School of Business. Awuah is a Fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative (a branch of the Aspen Global Leadership Network) and a member of the United States Council on Foreign Relations.
"The college that I have helped establish in Ghana, Ashesi University College, is an attempt to create an institution like Swarthmore College in Africa," Awuah said at Swarthmore in 2004. "We face enormous challenges on a continent that has too few such institutions. Yet, we persevere with the knowledge that our success will make a tremendous impact on the lives of many future generations in Africa and the world."