A physics degree is just the beginning for Chukwuemeka Ibebuike and the long-term plans he’s mapped out for his future.
The international student from Nigeria, nicknamed “Chuks,” is graduating from Georgia College on Saturday. He decided to attend the school because his uncle received his chemistry degree there, and he would have relatives living nearby.
Ibebuike, who turns 24 on Tuesday, will pursue a master’s degree in accounting at Georgia College. Then, he hopes to apply for the electrical engineering graduate program at the University of South Carolina.
He has wanted to be an engineer ever since he created a reading lantern for a middle school project and learned about solar panels providing light inside his uncle’s home. He’s from Imo State in the eastern part of Nigeria, where electricity is a luxury.
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Even in the capital city, residents have electricity just 12 hours on a good day, but other times they go days without it. Schools and hospitals are often forced to operate without light.
Ibebuike doesn’t understand why the government hasn’t done something to supply more reliable electricity to all parts of the country. He wants to take matters into his own hands as a solar engineer and create affordable, renewable energy.
“My goal is not to work or stay (in Georgia),” he said. “My goal is to go back home and to gradually work on building solar panels for each home. It would mean a lot to the whole area.”
By the time he is 40 years old, Ibebuike would like to start running for political office in Nigeria. He has seen government corruption and mismanagement and the decline of Nigerian currency, and he “can’t turn a blind eye to his home country,” he said. This motivated him in his studies in Georgia.
He took as many as 24 hours of courses a semester and held two university jobs in order to graduate a semester early and save his family money. Eric Spears, Georgia College’s assistant vice president of international education, said those are great examples of Ibebuike’s character and how conscious he is of his family and community.
“His motivation is not for person gain. I think it really is to make a difference in the world,” Spears said. “He is the kind of international student who wants to go back home and make his country a better place to live.”
He’s a natural-born leader and a role model who connects well with international and domestic students. He does everything with grace, dignity and a positive attitude, Spears said.