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Change at the Top

A veteran academic leader and pioneering researcher is the new provost and senior vice president of San Diego State University.
Chukuka S. Enwemeka
Chukuka S. Enwemeka

This story is featured in the summer 2014 issue of 360:The Magazine of San Diego State University. 

Chukuka S. Enwemeka, distinguished professor and former dean of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, joined San Diego State University July 1.

He has more than 20 years of academic leadership experience, including 10 years as tenured professor and chair at the University of Kansas Medical Center and more than 11 years as a college dean.

Enwemeka received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and the University of Southern California, respectively and earned his Ph.D. from New York University before doing post-doctoral research at NYU’s Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine.

He is a leading authority in the use of lasers and monochromatic light for therapeutic purposes. In pioneering studies, Enwemeka and his team demonstrated, for the first time, that certain wavelengths of LED blue light kill the deadly methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), suggesting that blue light may be a viable alternative to bacteria-resistant antibiotics.

Recently, Enwemeka answered a few questions for 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University.

What drew you to academia as a young man?

It was during my second year at the University of Ibadan that I made up my mind to emulate the lifestyle of my professors. I was full of admiration for them. They seemed to have this incredible amount of knowledge. Many would teach without any notes; everything came straight from their heads.

What were some of your earliest impressions of the U.S.?

I found that research in America must be focused not just on identifying a problem, but also on finding the simplest solution. This insight enabled me to understand why this nation is so good at finding solutions to practical problems, and why Americans do not waste time on things that don’t work. We look for the most common-sense approach to resolving issues.

What attracted you to SDSU?

SDSU’s focus on student success is very impressive to me and it is something I think I can assist with. Academic institutions nationwide have not done a very good job with student success. We blame it on the grade schools and the high schools, but just look at how we evaluate ourselves. We are four-year colleges and yet, nationwide, we use the six-year graduation rate to measure success! We need to help students achieve their goal of graduating with a degree in four years. I am equally attracted to SDSU by its strong focus on research, proven dedication to internationalization and the teacher-scholar faculty model, devotion to community engagement, and demonstrated commitment to diversity.

Tell us about your family

We have five children, including three adults who are ages 33, 29 and 28. The oldest lives in Kansas City; he studied engineering. The second is a journalist in Boston; and the third is an engineer working for SpaceX here in California. We also have two young daughters who came with us to San Diego. My wife, Roselyn, will be joining SDSU as assistant director of special programs with the International Student Center.

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