It came as a complete surprise to MTSU professor of management Sesan Kim Sokoya when it was announced he was a recipient of a 2021 Unsung Heroes Award in the area of education.
The distinguished honor was presented at MTSU’s 2021 Unity Celebration, held virtually in February as part of the annual Black History Month activities.
“It was very humbling. I did not know I had been nominated,” said Sokoya, who has taught at the university for 31 years and is the associate dean for graduate and executive education in the Jones College of Business. “When it was mentioned the recognition had to do with my contribution to the Flex MBA program, my immediate reaction was its development, about six years ago, was a collaborative effort by many in the Jones College of Business. I am very grateful to them all. I was honored to receive the award.”
The Flex MBA initiative allows students the option to earn their advanced business degree online, so teaching in a virtual environment was not new to Sokoya and he said making adjustments was not too difficult.
Teaching during the pandemic
Because of the pandemic, he remotely taught more sections of his courses and found himself adapting some new technologies.
“I introduced more recorded videos into my courses,” he said. “In addition, I have more Zoom meetings with my students for office hours, and for those utilizing Zoom to take classes online, I tried very hard to make sure that they had very similar experience to the students on campus.”
Sokoya, who is also the university’s MBA program director, focused on using the challenges brought about by COVID-19 as a teaching moment.
“I try to impress on my students to embrace being adaptable,” he said. “Resiliency, dealing with uncertainty, ability to pivot quickly and being resourceful are all transferable skills that the pandemic is teaching them or helping them to hone those skills.”
He especially appreciates the tenacity he has found in his MBA students. “Many of them have taken up the challenge of going back to school during the pandemic and they often juggle the demands of earning their degree while working from home,” he said. “I am very motivated to help them be successful in their pursuits.”
Sokoya smiled when recalling a classroom safety protocol that struck him somewhat humorous. “While I knew it was necessary and a good thing, taking wet wipes to a graduate class to wipe hands and desks reminded me of what first graders have to do,” he said with a chuckle. “My students were good about it.”
Years of experience
A tenured faculty member, Sokoya brings years of expertise in the areas of strategic and international management. His involvement in international education has led him to guiding numerous study abroad trips and he is faculty adviser for RUF, or Reformed University Fellowship, a campus ministry that has been unable to meet on campus because of COVID-19, which hindered some of their activities.
“Our MBA students have great attitudes and they are adjusting to campus protocols,” he said. “In two semesters with required masks in class, I have not had a single complaint and they all complied. I am very impressed with them.”
— Patsy Weiler (Patsy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)