World Campus graduate uses skills to improve Nigeria's emergency preparedness

Abiodun Awoyemi stands in a conference room addressing a dozen people on safety before the Lagos Marathon.

Abiodun Awoyemi, right, is a 2018 Penn State graduate. Awoyemi, who is from Lagos, Nigeria, applies the skills from his public health preparedness education at Penn State World Campus to help keep Nigerians safe.

Credit: Abiodun Awoyemi

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State graduate Abiodun Awoyemi is putting his degree to work to improve Nigeria’s emergency management systems in an effort to make his home country safer.

The 37-year-old Lagos, Nigeria, native credits his confidence and skills to the public health preparedness education he got through Penn State World Campus.

“Without that program, I honestly would not have been here,” Awoyemi said.

The public health preparedness option is one of seven specializations available through the Penn State Intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security program. Awoyemi immediately learned transferrable skills and information from his courses and professors.

“I could begin to make impacts in my own country, and I actually did,” he said.

Most recently, Awoyemi helped coordinate COVID-19 response and train health care workers in Lagos, Nigeria. Awoyemi spoke with Penn State faculty member Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, associate professor in public health sciences, throughout the pandemic on how the University was handling COVID-19 and brainstormed strategies that could be applied in Lagos.

Awoyemi also led trainings for oil and gas companies, while continuing to work with his consulting business, TNN Emergency Management Services. He applied knowledge from his courses to help bridge the gaps in local- and state-level emergency management services, advocating for an office of emergency management.

Since graduating in 2018, Awoyemi served as the emergency preparedness specialist for the Lagos Marathon in 2019 and 2020. He created a preparedness plan for local hospitals and identified security risk zones for the 100,000-runner race in Nigeria’s largest city.

Awoyemi also secured a scheduled 30-minute meeting with a high-ranking state official to discuss emergency management.

“I was answering his questions and also asking tough questions,” Awoyemi said of his meeting that ended up lasting about two hours with a state health commissioner in 2019. The two shared ideas and learned from one another. The meeting led Awoyemi to design and lead a gap analysis for the state’s emergency medical services.

“I couldn’t have been inspired to have the boldness to push governors, health commissioners and ministers if I didn’t have the confidence I gained from my Penn State degree,” Awoyemi said.

Awoyemi also became a certified emergency manager through the International Association of Emergency Managers. He’s been a member of the association since 2017 and earned his certification last year.

“It’s a rare privilege to get to that level in my field,” he said.

Public health preparedness is an option of the Intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security, an online program offered through Penn State World Campus. Course instructors teach students the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively and efficiently respond to natural and human-made disasters. Students learn to evaluate and adapt to ever-changing emergency situations. The program is ideal for emergency management officials at all levels, as well as health care providers and first responders.

Awoyemi is currently studying information technology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he hopes to finish his doctorate in three years. He strives to expand his emergency management knowledge and skill set to take back home to inspire Nigeria’s leaders and citizens.

Awoyemi said he is proud to be a Nittany Lion and said he even found a member of the Penn State family in Nebraska — his faculty adviser is also a Penn Stater.

Visit the Penn State World Campus website to learn more about the homeland security program.


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