She’s Oprah’s girl!

Kenneth Oliko

ONLY 27, ‘Funa Maduka is the Dean of Students of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

Obvious question; what did it feel like to be announced Professional of the Year at The Future Awards early this year?

It’s a humbling and grateful feeling, and I’m excited too – especially if it’s inspiring those even younger than I am to achieve more. When I was nominated, I was impressed by the initiative, first and foremost. It’s wonderful that there’s a movement of young people working tirelessly to get our country back on track. It was an honour to be identified as being a part of the “new future” of Nigeria. When I read the bio-data of the other nominees, I said, “Wow, any one of them could have easily won.” It’s a humbling feeling.

If a total stranger asked who you are, what would you say?
I think one is defined most concretely by her passion. I’m passionate about making a difference in the world; it’s what drives me each day.

Describe your work
I (have been) the Dean of Students of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls for 3 years now, responsible for the creation of a management structure for the division as inaugural Dean of Students at the academy. I served as special projects manager to Oprah Winfrey, a former Wall Street financial analyst on the Goldman Sachs trading floor with the firm’s International Sales Desk and worked with Former President Clinton’s HIV/AIDS Initiative in the Caribbean.

You have worked with the biggest names on earth – Oprah, Bill Clinton – how easy was it for you to get those jobs?
It was tough; there were lots of interviews for both roles. Both were demanding jobs, but I grew tremendously from both experiences. I was given freedom to innovate and that was important to me.

Being so young and being Dean of Students is surely unusual – does it feel intimidating at times? Are people surprised?
Yes! I can’t tell you how many times I introduced myself as Dean of Students and the person, disbelieving, would only hang onto to the word “student.” The next question would be, “so, what grade are you in?” But my youth helps in relating to the girls, it’s important for administrators to stay close to the ground. Youths need adults to communicate to them in their language – and I’m not talking about slang; they’ll think you’re corny – it’s about taking the time to understand them and really listen. I believe that I have learned more from my students than I have ever taught them.

(Full story on Y! September 2010)

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