Lilian Imuetinyan Salami | Nice Alumni Series

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria | Class of 1982

Hometown: Jos, Nigeria | Currently: Benin City, Nigeria

Civil war raged across Nigeria during Lilian’s childhood. A blockade led to famine, resulting in the deaths of 3 million civilians and, over the course of the three-year war, estimates suggest that between 500,000 to 3 million Nigerians were made refugees of war.

As the country battled against itself, Lilian remained focused on her education and was motivated by the no-nonsense work ethic of her mother. After graduating high school, she hungered for a world-class higher education, which led her to the United States and, eventually, to NDSU.

One must know what one wants and remain focused. If one is focused, one cannot easily be swayed here and there.

Lilian’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees from NDSU were just the beginning of her academic achievements. After graduating in 1982, Lilian returned to Nigeria to serve in the National Youth Service Corps, a program founded in 1973 as a way to rebuild the nation after the civil war. She then went on to earn a PhD from the University of Nigeria in 1991, a postgraduate diploma in education from the University of Benin in 2001, and a postdoctorate degree from South Africa’s Vaal University of Technology in 2005. 

By 2019, her many accolades and ambition uniquely qualified her to assume the role of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin. She became only the second woman in the university’s history to ascend to such a position.

Today, as higher education is being challenged and shaped by an ever-changing world, Lilian recognizes the importance of being relevant to one’s time in history, and to match the dynamism of one’s era.

When asked how she advises the next generation, she hints at the values that have led to her own success, saying, “I think they should remain focused and, if they have dreams, they should dream big and go for it.”

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Credits: Story by Scott Meyer & Dane Johnson / Illustration by Izak Moleterno

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Posted on November 18th, 2020 by Dane Johnson in News and Stories