College names new Stallings Distinguished International Scholar

Prof. Victor Mbarika

Professor Victor Mbarika, Ph.D., brings a varied and diverse background to ECU, the College of Business (COB) and the Management Information Systems Department. Born in Cameroon (West Africa), he completed his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in five years at three different U.S. institutions. “I didn’t want to stay in school forever,” Mbarika said.

Before coming to ECU, Mbarika served at both Louisiana State University and Southern University, where he ultimately earned full professorship and an endowed fellowship. During this time, he also managed to create the Information and Communication Technology University (ICTU). The organization uses U.S.-based curriculum to provide quality Information Technology, Engineering, Managerial Human Capacity Development specially targeted for Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. The institution he created has served over 15,000 students in those regions.

Mbarika’s research looks at the social, cultural and infrastructural elements that accelerate or decelerate information technology and business knowledge transfer to developing economies — both domestically in the U.S. and internationally, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

His background, his experience and his three lifetime achievement awards are among the reasons Mbarika was chosen to be the inaugural Stallings Distinguished International Scholar, which will allow him to continue his international work, as well as enrich the experiences of COB students.  

When asked, Mbarika said ECU’s online education delivery reputation and its rural location were paramount in joining the ECU family.

“I absolutely love research, and I’ve been blessed to have published (with mostly my students as co-authors), over 250 refereed articles,” said Mbarika. “I came to ECU with this background, hoping to contribute to the already fantastic job that Dean Paul Schwager, the current administration and previous administrations have done. I want to help this institution be a great citadel for education in the U.S. The rural population that ECU serves is exactly the type of area I want to be in.”

“I always want to be where I can make a difference.”

Prof. Victor Mbarika and ICT University donate $75,000 in scholarships to help blind Cameroon citizens pursue studies at the Masters and Ph.D. levels at ICTU campuses in different countries (photo taken pre-COVID).

Your research looks at the intersection of information technology and humanity, in particular telemedicine, distant learning, e-agriculture and e-democracy. What brought you to this research focus?

The issues like shortage of infrastructural and human resources, along with uneven distribution of health services, are challenging the healthcare delivery systems world-over. These problems captured my attraction in the late nineties because I believe that good health is a basic/fundamental necessity for all of us. That’s why I endeavored to empower clinicians and patients through my research centered on e-health and telemedicine.

How can your research complement ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative?

The interesting thing is that much of my work is focused on the developing world, and especially sub-Saharan Africa. However, I’ve been privileged to do work in several rural parts of the United States, such as some rural parts of Louisiana. Looking at the eastern North Carolina region, I want to say, without sounding like I’m insulting the region, that there are areas out here that look like some very poor parts of Africa. I mean this in the nicest way because it is an opportunity to take some of the lessons we have learned over the years and, hopefully, implement them in this region. I just found out there are parts of North Carolina that do not have good internet connectivity. That looks to me like some parts of Africa.

I look forward to doing a lot in this region, just like we have done worldwide.

How can your experience complement the College of Business’ efforts in building the leaders of tomorrow?

We have some of the brightest students of any college of business in America right here at ECU’s COB. In my few weeks of teaching, I’ve been telling them that their competition is not only in America but international. The students need to be exposed internationally. That is what I plan to do. We must go beyond study abroad and involve students in actual international projects, which will provide them an opportunity to sell their skills internationally. ECU already has a tradition of doing this, and I would just be contributing to that.

Telemedicine and remote learning are at the forefront of how we are coping in a COVID-19 environment. What has worked, and what can be improved?

COVID-19 has jammed almost everything, but at the same time, it has also accelerated the pace of adoption of information technology tools, specifically in health care. Telemedicine that had been proven to be practical, feasible and affordable was waiting for adoption in a few sections of the society and numerous countries. So, technologies like e-health/telemedicine have gained ground because users on both sides (the practitioners as well as patients) have understood the potential that is packed in these information technology applications in health care.


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