Anicia Peters, for the love of machines

Being a stronghold for a Faculty as complex and necessary as Computing and Informatics at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) takes dedication, recognising opportunities and knowledge, but mostly, just the air of grace and passion that Dr Anicia Peters exudes.

Responsible for the entire Computer Science and Informatics Faculty, Peters is carving her own legacy in the longstanding history of the skills transfer orientated institution.

“I see myself as an opportunity facilitator instead. When I see students, I see opportunity, new ideas and talent. I see the future of Namibia and the future of the world. It gives me tremendous joy to help them to unlock and achieve their dreams.

Sure, there are times when we have to reprimand, but mostly we facilitate learning in as a holistic manner as we can do. In the Faculty we have started to place greater emphasis also on the non-academic needs of students such as mentoring, living arrangements, transport, jobs, emotional support or extra skills training,” she tells Us.

Her Faculty has about 80 Masters students and 20 PhD students currently and NUST also has several collaboration agreements with different universities in different countries where they send students on exchange programs.

Over the course of the year, Peters’ Faculty has had five different groups of Master’s and PhD students going to the United States for various reasons and events.

In 2017, she has also sent students to China, Italy, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, France, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Japan for training or exchange programmes.

“In May 2017, 11 Masters and PhD students went to Denver, United States where they presented their research at an International Research Symposium and they were fully funded by the Association of Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI).

In June, one female Master student and junior staff member was the only person from Africa selected to represent SIGCHI at the ACM’s 50th Anniversary in San Francisco, United States,” she tells Us. As one of the few Namibian women with PhDs in Computer Science, Peters sees the landscape of female PhD holders changing considering the number of those currently busy with their PhDs.

In working and studying for six years at Iowa State University, Oregon State University and Intuit in Silicon Valley, Peters mustered her energy back home into building her experience where she draws on her international network to find the funding, collaborators, partners or equipment needed for students.

“It makes me proud that I am an alumnus of NUST and can have a share in shaping Namibia’s future in technology. I am grateful to be able to dispel the myth that our students are not good enough quality, which is something I heard so often in the past.

Now, students finally have confidence in themselves and believe that they are receiving a world-class education and are internationally competitive,” she says.

It is that same air of confidence and self-belief that she strives to instill in her students, to draw from her well of knowledge as she has drawn from her mentors.

Her role models in academia are our Vice Chancellor, Prof Tjama Tjivikua, and her former boss at Oregon State University, Prof. Margaret Burnett who is an ACM distinguished Engineer and Academy Fellow, textbook author and inventor of two visual programming languages.

This year, as one of her goals, Peters has managed to rekindle a love for Computing among students and staff members by concentrating on providing a holistic education for students. They also emphasise community based research, which forms the core of their activities and has seen the team be internationally renowned.

These feats within the academic space are only a reflection of Peters’ spirit as a natural career.

“My husband and I adopted two girls who mother passed away when the baby was born. Our oldest daughter studies Statistics in the United States, while our the other child is in high school. Then we care for another 15 year old.

So, in total we have 5 girls. We like to spend time as a family and usually eat dinner together. I go home in the afternoons, have dinner and once the children go to sleep, I then continue working. I am also an aunt (“Tannie”) and grandaunt,” she says.

For 2018, her aim is to continue building more skills and capacity for the Namibian workforce.

Smiling, she concludes, “We really want to meet industry’s needs with a highly skilled tech workforce. Inspiring more young Namibians to pursue studies in Computing and Informatics. Developing more interdisciplinary programmes so that we can tackle Namibia’s problems more holistically.”

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