When she joined Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) 15 years ago, Prof. Pamela Mbabazi had her mind set on changing the institution’s academic face and climbing the leadership ladder. True to her dream, in September 2010, Prof. Mbabazi was appointed deputy vice chancellor.
The light-skinned professor, who spots dreadlocks, joins Prof. Joy Kwesiga, the Vice Chancellor of Kabale University and Prof. Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academics at Makerere University, as the few women holding high administrative ranks in the over 25 universities and a other tertiary institutions in the country.
However, Prof. Mbabazi’s appointment did not come out of the blue. For 12 years, Prof. Mbabazi was the dean of Faculty of Development Studies where she left an enviable academic and leadership legacy. She developed a curriculum for the faculty that now offers degree courses in Development Studies and Business Administration.
The faculty contributes 1,000 students out of the total university population of 2,700 with 250 set to graduate on January 29. “I have provided focused leadership to the growth of the Faculty of Development Studies which is one of the well-established faculties at MUST today. I believe these are some of the qualities that I have which make me a better choice for the deputy vice chancellor job,” she says.
“I am a hard-working and focused individual with a seriousness of purpose. I am energetic, self-driven, a seasoned academic and experienced administrator,” she says. She cites hard work and good mentors as factors behind her success at the 21-year-old institution.
Prof. Mbabazi says the institution’s vice chancellor, Prof. Frederick Kayanja, and her PhD supervisor, Prof. Tim Shaw, are people who mentored her towards success. “Prof. Kayanja has been my mentor since I joined this university. Several professors whose universities I have studied at including Makerere, Leeds, Dortmund, Ghana and MUST have all been my role models. Prof. Shaw has seen me grow from a timid young scholar to a seasoned and experienced academic,” she says.
Prof. Mbabazi, who replaced Prof. Jonathan Baranga, says one of her goals is to develop existing programmes at the institution and introduce new initiatives relating to curriculum development. Her immediate task is to head the project implementation committee for the university’s expansion project. “MUST is finally beginning the process of moving to its new campus at Kihumuro and we have started construction works on this project as we further plan for expansion of our university,” she says.
Her dedication to work is also known by her colleagues at the university.
Ms Clementia Neema Murembe, a senior lecturer, says: “She is a very good mobiliser, innovative and creative. She knows how to motivate workers if she wants something done in a given time frame.” But added: “What can be a weakness is that she has mood swings, which is because of work-related stress.”
Dr Robert Muliisa, who has worked with Prof. Mbabazi since 1998 says: “In terms of personality, she is full of energy and humour She drives teams to heights they are supposed to achieve. She takes criticism positively. It is difficult for a leader to take criticism so positively. Dr Pamela takes it positively to the extent of saying, ‘Sorry, you are right. That’s how it should be’.”
Outside work, Prof. Mbabazi enjoys jogging, playing tennis and reading books, newspapers and watching TV. “I wake up at 6.30am, pray and meditate. I do exercises and have breakfast and then set off for work. I am in office mostly all day and often leave by 5pm to play tennis or do some jogging and use the later part of the evening for research or project work,” she says.
Prof. Mbabazi is married to Engineer Ivan Mbabazi and they have two children.
As a mother and administrator, Prof. Mbabazi says both tasks can be challenging sometimes. “It’s pretty tough to balance all these roles as I guess most women can attest. But I thank God who has enabled me to make it. I try to balance each according to the demand on my programme,” she says.
“I have also tried hard to plan and organise my life and make sure that I set clear goals and detail out the strategies of whatever I want to achieve.”
“I even give myself time frames in order to accomplish whatever I have set out to do,” Prof. Mbabazi says. She noted that women still have a challenge of overcoming society’s perception that women are not capable leaders.
“It is a daunting task for women to easily succeed in positions of leadership that are pretty demanding given our multiple roles. But when you organise yourself well and with God’s providence and your spouse’s and wider family support, you can and do succeed,” she says.
“Some of our societies need to be ‘saved’ from negative misconceptions like questioning women’s abilities to perform certain functions and assume higher levels of offices. We shall begin to see more and more women taking up positions of influence and power as we get more role models whom the younger generation can emulate,” she says.