Papua New Guinea’s first woman university vice-chancellor Dr Cecilia Nembou (pictured above, right) was recognised as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) last month for her services to higher education and as a role model for women.

Dr Cecelia, from Baluan Island Manus, retired as the president and vice-chancellor of Divine Word University last year, ending a 45-year career in academic and senior administrative roles in the higher education sector in Papua New Guinea and abroad.

“When I won my [Australia] Award many of my colleagues at UPNG did not believe that I would succeed and come home with a PhD,” says Dr Cecilia. “By Divine Providence I did, and I have proven my critics wrong.

“Twelve years later, I was given the opportunity by the PNG Chapter of the Society of the Divine Word and the Divine Word University Council to be a Vice-Chancellor, and I am very proud of my achievements as the first woman Vice-Chancellor of a University in Papua New Guinea and the first lay person to be President of a Divine Word University in the Asia Pacific region.”

After graduating high school, Dr Cecilia studied a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at the University of Papua New Guinea before going on to work there for 25 years as a senior lecturer. She later went on to become executive dean, pro-vice chancellor and acting vice-chancellor. She studied a Master of Science at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and a Doctorate in Operations Research at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Dr Cecilia also worked at the University of Wollongong in Dubai for two years to broaden her experience before spending the last fifteen five years of her career at Divine World University, culminating with five years as Vice-Chancellor.

Cecilia believes that it is important to know what you want for the future: “Dream big and set your goal to achieve such a dream and work very hard to achieve your dream with all your heart and mind.”