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Wubah shares leadership journey – African Studies Spring Lecture

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 1:50pm
By:
Alan Flurry

UGA alumnus, Tribal king and President of the University of Millersville Daniel Wubah visited UGA recently to deliver the 2021 African Studies Spring lecture. Bat'sé Smart, Graduate Teaching Assistant in the African Studies Institute, wrote a summary of Dr. Wubah's remarks.

By Bat'sé Smart

To commemorate the African Studies Institute's 2021 Spring lecture, Daniel Wubah delivered an inspirational and informational address, "Rethink Hierarchy: Perspectives on Servant Leadership as Tribal King and University President," via Zoom webinar. Wubah wears many hats, but his prominent roles are tribal king, Nana Ofosu Peko Bekoe III, Toapentenhene of the Breman traditional area in Ghana, and President of the Millersville University of Pennsylvania. 

            Dr. Wubah began his address with an African proverb, "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together." A captivating storyteller, he took the participants on a journey through his life, dividing his story into three parts: before his arrival in the U.S., coming to the U.S., and living in the U.S. A descendant from royal families on both sides, Wubah was born into a family with a high sense of place and order – and high expectations. At age 7, he lost his father, leaving his mother to raise four children. After his father's death, his mother began to wake him up for early morning walks, not minding that his other siblings, including the eldest, were still asleep. These walks quickly instilled values of discipline and responsibility in Wubah, leading the family to recognize him at age 21 as heir apparent to the family throne. 

            When the time came, Wubah went from attending private schools all his life to a public university. The change brought massive culture shock, but Ghana's political upheaval affected public universities and ultimately pushed him to search for academic opportunities abroad. He became interested in working with UGA professor Melvin Fuller, but would not get the chance to work with him for another two years as Fuller moved to Sweden on sabbatical. Following Fuller's advice, he earned a master's degree at the University of Akron, Ohio, and later joined Fuller as a Ph.D. student at UGA. 

            Daniel Wubah went on to work at a UGA research lab and then the Biology Department at Towson University. His character and work ethic opened doors to serve on multiple committees within and beyond his department. Based on high praises by colleagues who attested to his listening and leadership skills, he transitioned into a series of administrative roles, from department head at Townson University and eventually the President of Millersville University.

            Throughout the presentation, Wubah paid homage to his Ghanaian heritage, using Adinkrasymbols on each slide to communicate servant leaders' virtues. While forging a professional path in the U.S., he returned to Ghana to perform the rituals necessary to taking on his tribal title. Wubah compared and contrasted his two leadership roles, sharing that while he became President of Millersville University by appointment, his tribal title is his birthright. He listed both positions' similarities to include hard work, team building, crisis management, and taking responsibility. 

Furthermore, Wubah highlighted stark contrasts between his dealings in Ghana and the U.S., highlighting norms such as meeting people where they are, going out to coffee, or dinner with people as the President of an American university. In contrast to his role as a tribal king, people come to meet him, he does not go to them, and it is unlawful for him to eat anywhere other than a private restaurant. He referenced John Maxwell's five leadership levels, emphasizing the tension that he experiences between levels 1 and 5 – position and pinnacle. As a tribal king, he has earned his positionby birthright, but he has attained his pinnacleby choice and through hard work as a university president. Overall, he left participants with two critical components of servant leadership – humility and strength. To close the lecture, he quoted Epictetus in "Enchiridion": "Remember that you are an actor in a play, of such a kind that the author may choose. This is your duty, to act well the part that is given to you, but to select the part, belongs to another."

 

Image: Daniel Wubah at his April 2019 inauguration as president of Millersville University. (Courtesy of Millersville University)

 

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