All About ‘Dimeji Togunde
In celebration of International Education Week 2020, we are proud to profile one of IFSA’s National Advisors Council (NAC) Executive Committee members, Dr. ‘Dimeji Togunde, who serves as the Vice Provost for Global Education and Professor of International Studies at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
AN EARLY EDUCATOR
Born and raised in southwestern Nigeria, ‘Dimeji was the oldest in a large family. “When I was growing up,” ‘Dimeji said, “my parents imbued in me the dignity of work, the importance of living a life of integrity and a purpose-driven life.” His parents also shaped his experience by instilling a close relationship with God, an aspect of his life that remains important to this day.
‘Dimeji always wanted to be a professor, and while he originally showed interest in economics, a mentor pointed him in another direction: demography and social statistics. “He convinced me that demographers would be in demand … [and that] I could easily receive a fellowship to study abroad,” ‘Dimeji said. Once he completed an undergraduate and master’s degree at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, where he also taught briefly as a lecturer, ‘Dimeji was fortunate to receive a fellowship as his mentor predicted and began a Ph.D. program at Cornell University in the United States.
ESTABLISHING AN INTEREST IN GLOBAL EDUCATION
Arriving in Ithaca, New York was a bit of a transition for ‘Dimeji as he adjusted to new foods and cold weather that he had never experienced. He said, “I also had to adjust to a new way of making friends and how to maintain the new relationships formed. For instance, ensuring that prior arrangements must be made before visiting each other rather than just showing up at people’s door.”
Cornell University’s program allowed ‘Dimeji to expand his understanding of development sociology and population studies, and offered him additional coursework and exposure to important global concepts. More than anything, though, ‘Dimeji established his interest in global education. “While at Cornell, I was exposed to the contending arguments on globalization and the need to develop students’ knowledge of global issues while enhancing their intercultural awareness so they can compete and succeed in an interconnected, interdependent, and competitive global society,” he said.
A GROWING CAREER
Upon completion of his Ph.D, ‘Dimeji accepted a role as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Albion College, a liberal arts college in Michigan, where he would stay in progressively growing roles for the next 15 years. There he held the John S. Ludington Trustees’ Chair in the Social Sciences and had the opportunity to develop a global studies curriculum for the school and served in roles such as Interim Director of International Studies, Chair of the department of Anthropology and Sociology, and Ethnic Studies Program Director.
In 2011, ‘Dimeji accepted a position as Dean of Global Education and Professor of International Studies at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. “I was attracted to Spelman College because of its mission that seeks to engage students with the many cultures of the world so they can be prepared for success as global leaders. Also, there was a bold institutional commitment to campus internationalization, and I thought it would be a good career move to provide leadership on global education at a forward-thinking institution with a reputation for academic excellence,” ‘Dimeji said.
‘Dimeji first joined IFSA’s NAC Executive Committee in 2018, and it was IFSA’s mission and commitments that inspired him to serve. “I am impressed by the organization’s genuine efforts in promoting inclusive excellence that empowers minority students to be active participants in the classroom rather than being a marginalized group in their quest for global knowledge,” he said. As part of the Executive Committee, ‘Dimeji participates in quarterly meetings and more frequent Think Tank meetings, and he serves on the Inclusive Excellence working group. He said, “IFSA is constantly innovating, seeking new and effective ways to deepen students’ cultural immersion and enhance their personal development, and at the same time, relentless in its pursuit of instructional strategies and practices that promote inclusive excellence and skills that students will need to navigate a diverse, global cultural landscape.”
A BADGE OF HONOR
Under ‘Dimeji’s leadership, Spelman College earned a number of honors and awards from the international education community, including NAFSA’s Senator Paul Simon Award on Successful Internationalization Strategies and the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion in International Education award from the Diversity Abroad Network. He said, “It’s not my title or my influence, not my salary, but the joy that I see in the students’ faces when I travel with them abroad [that is most meaningful to me]. It is the transformative impact of study abroad that I read in students’ reflection essays upon their return.”
Despite his success and many awards along the way, ‘Dimeji is most proud that he achieved his ambition to become a professor, a goal that he established at a young age. “As the first born, the pressure was on me to excel in school and in life, to be a leader and a worthy ambassador for the family, for any organization that I work for and my country,” he said.
IFSA is proud to call ‘Dimeji a partner and a friend, and we think he is most definitely a leader, a change agent, and a worthy ambassador. Thank you for all that you do, ‘Dimeji.