Senior mechanical engineering student Okechukwu Ofili was named Homecoming King at halftime of the UH-East Carolina football game at Robertson Stadium. Ofili is the second consecutive king from the Cullen College of Engineering. Last year, Xavier Cano received the same honor. There is an application process for every nominee as well as an interview with a panel of judges to ensure the impartiality of the vote, but Ofili said being an engineering student set him apart.
“Both Xavier and I were in the PROMES program, and that’s the only program I know in engineering that strongly encourages community service,” Ofili said. “For me, that’s where it started. It wouldn’t be possible without PROMES because they set the standard. PROMES is a big reason for Xavier and I to be where we are. We’re both products of that program.”
Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies, or PROMES, (pronounced “promise”) is a program that helps students make a smooth transition into university life. It offers study groups, aid in cooperative education programs, and offer special course and workshops to develop engineering students with a strong foundation.
The application process for Homecoming requires a 2.5 Grade Point Average, community service and an essay. For the interview portion of the application, Ofili faced David Kaiser of University Advancement, Natalie Merritt of the Bauer College of Business and Brenda Rhoden of The Honors College, who served on the king’s judging panel.
“It’s not a popularity contest; you just need to be an active member in your community,” Ofili said. “One thing I really saw different in this panel is that they were looking for humility. They were looking for people who did things because they wanted to, not because people were watching.”
Ofili, who is also the Hall Director of Bates Hall and Settegast Hall in the Quadrangle, applied for Homecoming king two years ago as president of the Nigerian Student Association (NSA). Ofili decided to run again after he received the group’s nomination again.
“I wanted to run a second time because the first time I applied I was an active student both in the leadership and community service aspects, and I was encouraged by members of the NSA to apply,” Ofili said. “It then became a goal of mine to see an international student like myself become Homecoming king.”
A number of international students come to the university for a strictly academic experience, Ofili said, which sometimes removes them from campus activities.
Engineering students have a rigorous curriculum, but that should not discourage any engineering student from feeling involved and connected to the campus either, Ofili said.
“The engineering curriculum is difficult, and going to sleep at 2 a.m. is considered an early night,” Ofili said. “But back to back we’ve had two engineering students as king. This goes to show that we can be involved in our community, do community service to help others, attend football games, promote UH, and still excel academically.”