Best-Graduating Student, Landmark University
Deborah Danjuma is the best-graduating student of Landmark University from the Department of Mechanical Engineering with a CGPA of 5.0 on a scale of 5.0. She aspires to be a robotics engineer. In this Interview by AYO AKANO, she shares her success story and achievements.
Tell us about your academic journey.
I attended Beulah Model School for my nursery education and Montessori International School for my primary education, both in Port Harcourt. I skipped two classes in nursery school and primary school because I was ahead of the classes. I attended Deeper Life High School, Port Harcourt Campus, and was always in the class of the Daniels — the class reserved for the highest in the set. I wrote WASSCE and SAT. I had five As and four Bs in WASSCE and scored about 1340 in SAT. I scored 304 on my JAMB examination. I got admitted to study Mechanical Engineering at Landmark University. I applied to other universities and was accepted. However, I chose Landmark University.
What motivated me to strive for excellence was the quest to know more. I’m a very curious person. I always wanted to know why things work since I was little. My aim wasn’t to be the best; my aim was to understand the concept of my course and make sure I had a thorough grounding of the concepts.
How does it feel to graduate with a CGPA of 5.0?
It was like a dream. I remember when I was being called out during the hooding ceremony, at a point, I felt like the actual person was coming behind me because it was like a dream. It is a miracle. I just see God in everything.
Being the best-graduating student means a lot to me and my family. I wish my late mum was here — she would have been greatly thrilled. I’m happy because I believe she is up there smiling at me. It was a thing of joy for my dad. He gave a goodwill message during my convocation ceremony.
What strategies did you adopt to maintain such a high level of academic achievement?
I ensured I started reading from the second week of resumption. I didn’t start from the first week because the semester was just starting. I use the first week to see what the timetables will be like. Then I will settle down, get the materials needed by the lecturers, and plan how the reading is going to be scheduled for the semester. I made sure I started reading early so that I could read and then review, so that close to the exams, I wouldn’t be worried about any topic that had not been covered.
Furthermore, I first committed the semester into God’s hands and ensured God was guiding me through the way. I listened to text as audio using Microsoft Edge or some PDF apps. I didn’t involve myself in a lot of stress. At the beginning of the semester, it was easier to read and rest. Another strategy was to make sure I rested well. Sometimes, I walked around the school or watched movies. I also taught my fellow students, and while helping them, my understanding of the course became better.
Were there any challenges or obstacles you encountered during your academic journey?
One particular challenge I encountered was depression. I lost my mum some years back and the thought sometimes comes back. I overcame it by turning to God and seeking His guidance. I can take a walk or watch a movie or sometimes talk to someone about it.
If there were topics I didn’t understand, which rarely happened, but whenever it happened, I prayed and then calmed down to study it bit by bit. If I needed to read a book or watch a video, I ensured to do that so I could have a full understanding.
Beyond academics, what extracurricular activities or experiences contributed to your success?
I took some courses on Coursera on technology and design. Through this, I was able to have a better understanding of my field. I took a course on the Korean language so I could increase my language skills. I took some extra courses on Duolingo and YouTube so I could increase my knowledge of the language up to the intermediate level.
I was also a volunteer children’s teacher at my local church where I helped to train over 500 children yearly in the Word of God and equipped them with various skills like tech, cooking, and sports, and also offered career counselling when necessary.
I read books like ‘Richest Man in Babylon’ and other books, which helped to increase my relationship with God and motivation to work. I also participated in some volunteer work at home and school. It was a very enriching moment for me.
Can you share your most memorable or impactful learning experiences during your time in school?
My most memorable learning experience was during my internship. I did an internship first at Port Harcourt for a month and then a six-month internship later on. I was able to practicalise what I was taught in school. I was able to see how the business world works and contributed to the company by working in its operations department. I met other students from other schools. The highlight was the second internship which was about five months. That experience was the best and I was able to make meaningful connections and broaden my knowledge. I also had extra time to build on my programming and people-orientated skills.
Who were your role models or mentors during your academic journey, and how did they influence your success?
My first role model is God. I don’t really have a particular human model. I follow God, who in turn leads me to people I take lessons from, depending on the stage of life that I am in. God is the epitome of excellence and encourages us to work.
One person who influenced my career choice was my late mum. She noticed my curiosity to know and learn things, and it helped in influencing my career choice and success.
What are your aspirations and how did your education prepare you for your career journey?
I aspire to be a robotics engineer, and my past achievements have helped me because of my solid foundation for the future I aspire to. I took courses in C and C++ programming. With the knowledge from the courses, I was able to build miniature robots and programme them to perform various functions. I have been reading, and I’m sure I have a solid foundation from my past records and achievements. I’m still taking courses to help me be what I want to be.
Did your gender impact your decision to pursue an engineering career?
It didn’t impact my decision from the beginning because of the support I received from my family and friends. It seemed natural to me to pursue the career. But, as time went on while studying the course, questions came up on why I was studying the course, especially with the fact that it was more of a male course. People suggested I study Medicine and other female-related courses. But again, their opinion changed when I began to have excellent performance more than my male counterparts.
In what ways do you plan to give back to your community or contribute to society with your achievements?
One particular way I can give back to society is to be able to build robots that would help in enhancing children’s learning. I want to build artificial intelligence (AI) models and robots that would help in class presentations so that children can easily understand everything they are taught. It would reduce the stress for teachers. It would help to assess the uniqueness of every child.
What advice would you give to students aiming for academic excellence?
My advice is, above all, rely on God. Make sure you are working in His will. Take risks. Trust God for everything — He provided my school fees even when I thought I would have to defer for one year.
Concerning your work as a student, know what you want to achieve from the beginning. Don’t just put your mind on the goal; put your mind on the process. Enjoy the process of learning, reading, finding out new information, going to classes, and being inspired to know more. Also, do not cram. The essence of going to school is not to pass exams but to learn. Broaden your knowledge and read beyond the lecture material. Ensure you are studying what you actually want to study. Have a solid social network to support and keep you up. Your goals should not be for others.