'I had an objective here:' Graduate reflects on life at Kettering, in U.S.

'I had an objective here:' Graduate reflects on life at Kettering, in U.S.

Jun 17, 2014

"If you can change someone’s life positively, then the next generation will be even better than them.”

Nurudeen Huthman will graduate Sunday, June 22, after completing his bachelor's and master's degrees at Kettering.

Every Saturday morning Medinah Huthman traveled to the local internet café in Abuja, Nigeria. Medinah continued this ritual for a year in the Capitol City of Nigeria with a single aim – finding an American college for her son Nurudeen Huthman. 

“Because I was in boarding school, we had probably 30 minutes each week to get on the Internet,” Nurudeen said. “You are supposed to send emails to parents during that time and I didn’t have time to look for schools so my mom basically did my college search for me.”

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Medinah’s searches continued throughout Nurudeen’s senior year at boarding school until she finally found what she thought was the perfect school for him, a place where he could fulfill his passion of a good education and have the opportunity to play soccer – Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan.

“Throughout all the searching she never found Kettering,” Nurudeen said.

Nurudeen headed to Lagos during the holidays of his senior year in secondary school, excited to commit to fulfilling his dream of becoming a collegiate soccer player when a chance encounter at a bookstore altered the course of his post-secondary athletic and educational career. Medinah and Nurudeen found the latest copy of the U.S. World News and World Report on the shelf, flipped to the engineering section, saw that Kettering University was ranked No. 1 in Industrial Engineering and Medinah calmly said, “you should go there.”

“She didn’t even buy the magazine. She just wrote the names down,” said Nurudeen, laughing. “I picked Kettering because of the co-op program. I picked co-op over soccer.” 

Nurudeen’s soccer career did continue at the intramural level at Kettering but more importantly he’s flourished as a scholar, professional and active and engaged citizen in the Flint community.

“The concept of working and being educated at the same time was very appealing about Kettering. He has matured nicely there,” Medinah said. “Kettering is not the biggest school, but it has given him big ideas and goals.”

The Early Years in Nigeria

Nurudeen was born in Lagos, Nigeria, off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, in the southwest part of the country. He completed his primary education in Lagos before his parents moved to Abuja.

Nurdeen’s father AbdulHakeem Huthman and mother Medinah were both accountants in Lagos. They moved to Abuja to start their own business – a company that uses interlocking bricks for building affordable and low-cost housing units.

Shortly after arriving in Abuja, Nurudeen was sent to boarding school in the State of Kwara, approximately six hours south west of the capitol city where his parents now resided.

“I did not like it. This was tough love. In boarding school in Nigeria, your parents send you there because they believe in discipline. It’s a regimented life,” Nurudeen said. “We have to learn to survive as individuals – fend for ourselves.”

Nurudeen Huthman's parents, Medinah (right) and AbdulHakeem.

After the first two weeks, the school invited the parents of freshman for an official visit. Nurudeen, frustrated with the regiment and culture at the boarding school, was prepared to inform his mother and father that he would be returning home with them after their visit. 

“I’m there for two weeks and I‘m like ‘screw this’ and I tell my mom that ‘I’m done.  No more. I want to go home now,’” Nurudeen said.  “I’m crying when I’m saying this. I’m bawling.”

Medinah understood and responded to her son’s grief and stoutly responded with – ‘no you will be fine’ – a cultural persistence and confidence that Nurudeen was accustomed to at home. 

Nurudeen stayed at the boarding school for six years and it was there where he developed his passion and skills for mathematics and science that eventually landed him at Kettering.  

“Nurudeen was very independent as a child,” AbdulHakeem said. “He sets goals, and you don't have to push him. He strives to achieve and always has, and he developed that even more at Kettering.”

Adapting to Life in the United States and Kettering

Nurudeen earned his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and will complete his masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Kettering in June 2014. He completed his co-op experience at Autoliv Electronics America in Southfield, Michigan, and has now spent six years at Kettering – the same amount of time he spent at boarding school as a teenager in Nigeria. Like boarding school, Nurudeen experienced an adjustment period at Kettering but it was the school’s culture and programming that helped him adapt quickly.

“I had an objective here. I’m coming to do well in school. That was my No. 1 aim – to succeed in school,” Nurudeen said.  “I wouldn’t say I was in a culture shock, I’ve always been introverted. I always closed my door and stuck in my room and focused on my work.”

It took Nurudeen about six months to adjust to campus and collegiate life in the United States but two full years to really adapt and assimilate with the lifestyle. Joining clubs and organizations and participating in “Destination Diversity” activities alongside other students from Africa increased his comfort level at the school and further expanded his college experience.

“One thing about Kettering is that the people are open in terms of the student body and faculty,” Nurudeen said. “I love that I can talk to the faculty and know them by name. They know me and I’m not a number. That was a big thing for me – then you can talk to somebody and tell them your problems.”

In his sophomore year at Kettering, Nurudeen joined Engineers Without Borders and Kagle Leadership Initiatives as a tutor  and mentor to area middle and high school students in the Flint community.

“By mentoring, you’re actually sowing a seed in the Flint community,” Nurudeen said. “It’s like making ripples in a pond. If you can change someone’s life positively, then the next generation will be even better than them.”

Engineers Without Borders permitted Nurudeen to travel to Mexico, South Africa and Haiti to work on projects related to water purification and rain water catchment systems among other things.

“That’s one thing great about Kettering, there are so many good opportunities. You just have to decide where you want to invest,” Nurudeen said. “I was in electrical engineering but I know so much about water purification and its importance worldwide.”

“Kettering has given him an education, allowed him to travel and it has broadened his sphere of the world,” Medinah said. “He's joined societies and organizations that have helped him mature as a person and scholar.”

The Years Ahead

In his own words, Nurudeen has a “million dollar question” ahead of him – whether to return to Nigeria to join the family property development business, or pursue professional options in the United States.

“I’ve been thinking really hard about it. I’m looking into both options,” Nurudeen said. “There are opportunities available in Nigeria that would be good for someone with a technical background. If I go to Nigeria, it’s highly unlikely that I’d be designing electronics. But if I go back, I’ll be solving problems as an engineer.”

Nurudeen is interested in pursuing work opportunities in the United States and is confident that the co-op experience has put him two years ahead of counterparts from traditional engineering schools and can open doors for him this summer. But he also has reservations. 

“If you spend 10 years here in the United States, you’re not going to leave,” Nurudeen said.

He hopes to work professionally in the United States for a maximum of five years before heading back to Nigeria to pursue his passion for renewable energy – a topic that was the subject of his master’s thesis.

“I know what industry I want to go in I just need to figure out how I’m going to make an impact in my industry,” Nurudeen said.

From the bookstore in Lagos to Flint, Michigan, and all the travels in between, Nurudeen has been away from home for most of his teenage and adult life. As his journey continues, he’s likely to explore new countries and problems but in his eyes, he’s not visiting other places but rather establishing multiple homes along the way. 

“I always call Flint my home away from home,” Nurudeen said. “I’ve flown around the States but this is where I live.”


Written By Pardeep Toor | Contact: Patrick Hayes - phayes@kettering.edu - (810) 762-9639