Dean’s List: Pius Ughakpoteni

Pius Ughakpoteni is both an RKC graduate and a student. He was so happy with his studies in the MALIC programme that he enrolled in the Leadership and Sustainability MBA where he is now. Looking forward, he has been accepted to Middlesex University in London where he will obtain his doctorate. All of his studies come together in his work for the Niger Delta Development Commission where he has worked for several years.

Pius 2Kelly Boler: Tell us about yourself. Background: work, life, family.

Pius Ughakpoteni: I obtained a B.Sc. (Management) from the University of Calabar, Nigeria, in 1991. Thereafter, I went into journalism and had an extremely satisfying career. A providential detour took me to the public service and culminated in a blossoming public relations career.

In 2011 I took a momentous decision to go back to school for a Master’s degree in Leading Innovation and Change, MALIC, without leaving work. I started the MALIC studies at Robert Kennedy College on September 1, 2011.

It was a highly challenging adventure, as I studied alongside carrying out my duties as a member of the management cadre in the Niger Delta Development Commission and running a nuclear family of almost 10, but coming to RKC ignited my longstanding desire to reach the pinnacle of education. Hence, since October 2012, I have been doing an MBA in Leadership and Sustainability, also at RKC, which coursework I should complete by the end of 2013. Moreover, with the MALIC, I have been admitted for a Doctorate degree at Middlesex University, London.

KB: You are an Assistant Director in the Niger Delta Development Commission. What do you do there?
PU: The Niger Delta Development Commission is an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria created to bring about change in the well-endowed but highly beleaguered Niger Delta region, and facilitate its speedy, even and sustainable development. As Assistant Director in the Corporate Affairs Department, I work with the Head, Corporate Affairs, and other colleagues to position NDDC in the minds of its different publics as an organisation that delivers projects and programmes which meet their needs in a cost-effective, timely and transparent manner.

KB: Has your study at RKC helped in your work?
PU: Absolutely! My study at RKC has deepened my insight into the different antecedents of innovation and successful change that need to be strengthened in my work and working environment. It has boosted my concern for people. It has enabled me to respect others’ perspectives, even seek contrary or novel views and value the contributions people can make no matter what their status in the organisation.

KB: What was the best part of your experience doing the online degree?
PU: Beyond the extremely fruitful online and extra-curricular discussions with fellow students, I cherished the very helpful feedback I received from RKC faculty on my various mid-term and final assignments. In addition, memories of the face-to-face meetings with some fellow students as well as RKC and York St John University faculty at the Residency will linger for long.Pius and his family

KB: Describe your favorite local food.
PU: It is starch and banga soup. Starch is a solid, favorite food of mine that is prepared by mixing a solution of cassava starch with a little palm oil and stirring it while over heat until it changes from fluid to solid state. Thereafter it is eaten by skillfully cutting it in lumps which are dipped, one after another, into banga soup. For me, the soup has to be densely populated with pieces of dry fish and cow head.

KB: Are you reading anything right now?
PU: O yes, of course. For a few weeks now I have been reading Dr. David Costa’s The Portable Banker. Today, I also started re-reading Research Methods for Business Students by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill.

KB: Do have any favorite books about innovation that have influenced you?
PU: Well, I have found Managing Innovation and Change: A critical Guide for Organizations by King and Anderson very useful. It is succinct but deep and loaded.

KB: Who are your heroes in the working world?
PU: I admire people who, by sheer determination, dint of hard work, and faith in God, surmount obstacles without being discouraged and work their ways to the top.

KB: What is your motto?
PU: With God in you and you in Him all things are possible, provided you work hard and smart.Pius and wife

Dean’s List: Eyal Policar, Leader of Innovation and Change

Eyal picking lilies

Eyal Policar is a graduate of the Master in Leading Innovation and Change (MALIC) program at Robert Kennedy College. He lives in moshav Zofar in a desert in southern Israel half-way between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. Together, he and his wife Leaora manage a farm where they raise dates, peppers, and flowers. As this profile was being written, Eyal wrote to add that he had just received the news that he had been awarded a merit by the board of examiners at York St. John University. “For me this is an outstanding achievement,” he writes.

KB: At first glance, a degree in Innovation and Change might seem like a peculiar choice for a farmer. What drew you to it?
EP: As a 30-year, seasoned innovative farmer I decided to go back and get the grey cells brain trained. I thought of doing a normal MBA until I came across a few articles that argued that there are too many “number experts” out there but the person angle is overlooked. I came across MALIC and immediately fell in love with this angle of the Business school.

Besides being a farmer I teach in AICAT (Arava International Centre for Agricultural Training). We bring 700 agricultural students from the Asian countries over for a 10-month, hands-on experience. I teach Agro-economics and Agro-entrepreneurship and from day one of my studies [in MALIC] I began using my newly gained knowledge, such as Schein’s Cultural Understandings and Kotter’s Eight Stages of Leading Change.

KB: What has been the best part of your experience doing this online degree?

EP: Interaction with other students. Same books, same articles, same questions but such diverse answers and understandings from fellow students; culture galore on the RKC forums. Those who didn’t participate simply didn’t use the resources to the fullest, a shame.

KB: Do you have a favorite local food?
EP: My wife’s cooking. Here we eat “warm” at lunch and light meals in the evening. It’s unbelievable how many different ways there are to cook with peppers, tomatoes, aubergine, basil, tarragon, mint, and dates which we have plenty during the season.

KB: Tell us about the seminar that you have been asked to present by the Rothschild foundation (the Rothschild Ambassadors program, which looks for young people interested in becoming the future business and social leaders of Israel).
EP: One of the most intriguing aspects of leadership is the idea that different situations demand different leadership capabilities. I constructed a seminar picking up on this theme which the Rothschild foundation has asked me to present it to the Rothschild Ambassadors. This is a great honor.

KB:  Any advice to MALIC students?

EP:  These studies are all about change. Are you a change agent? Can you change? As you read academically and watch the videos, ask yourself: can this idea be part of my life pragmatically. Give yourself examples in your life of things that need to change and put your money where your mouth is.

For instance, the other day my son invited me to a small restaurant in Tel-Aviv. I said to him, today I will order the least appetizing meal on the menu.

“Why?” he asked me.

“Because i am hungry and it takes courage to order the least appetizing meal.”

So I ordered stuffed beets. The stuffing was burghul [a coarse wheat]. Imagine no meat, potatoes or rice. It was one of the best meals I have had in a long time.

KB: You play in a band called The Desert Coolers. Tell us more!

Eyal desert coolers


EP: I believe in soul economics, which means there are things you do for your livelihood and things you do for your soul. In my case its music. In my band the Desert Coolers we play oldies.

(Editor’s note: Eyal Policar is interested in keeping in touch with other MALIC alumni to create a kind of active Alumni center. The idea would be to have an outlet for keeping up with and exchanging academic and practical ideas, business opportunities, and a continuation of studies. Anyone interested can contact him through the OnlineCampus or alternatively through LinkedIn).