Indiana State University Newsroom

From student worker to lecturer at Indiana State

October 9, 2013

As Eli Aba turned the corner at Indiana State University's Community Garden House, a range of emotions filled him.

‘'I was surprised, humbled and disappointed, not disappointed that they did it for me, but I just thought that being the student worker in the Community Garden and for the job I did, I didn't deserve something like that or something in that nature. Because when you have any type of work we do, we don't see a lot of parties like that for someone,'' said Aba, now a part-time lecturer at Indiana State.

Around 20 community gardeners and faculty members from Indiana State surprised Aba with an engagement party. Patti Weaver and other faculty and staff members hosted the event to show their appreciation for Aba.

As a student, Aba worked for four years at the Community Garden. He started as the technology management student before being hired as the gardener. Stephanie Krull, ISU's landscape and grounds manager, said Aba gave 100 percent in his job when she first hired him to design the garden's webpage.

"He finished it and he said ‘Gosh, I really want to keep working.' We told him we do have an opening at the community center. Since it was outdoors he never thought he would be interested, as soon as he came over and looked at it, he just immediately took to it and he felt like he was home, because his mom gardened a lot back at home," said Krull.

Aba said he enjoys being out in the garden working and helping the other gardeners. He would help water lots, plant or open the shed for them.

"He was never bored, he was out talking and helping people with their gardens and doing whatever he could," said Krull.

Throughout his years as the gardener and for his hard work, the gardeners would occasionally give Aba gifts such as gifts cards to Wal-Mart, Subway and other places around Terre Haute.

"Some days when I was going home I would stop at Subway and I wouldn't have to use my money," said Aba.

"We are all sad to see Eli go he is a quite friendly person and just sets the mood and theme for everything here," said Jim Speer, professor of geography and geology and executive director of the Institute for Community Sustainability, which houses its office at the Community Garden.

After completing his dissertation during the summer, Aba now teaches classes at Indiana State, but the start of his journey began back in Ghana. And he plans for his journey to eventually lead him home.

"When I was in high school I didn't have a good chemistry teacher. We had to learn everything on our own, but it was an easy subject for me," said Aba.

He received his bachelors in biochemistry in Ghana and wanted to do something with industrial biochemistry. In 2006, he worked in a hospital as a biochemist for one year and then worked as a quality assurance officer. After a few years of working, he started applying to schools in America. Someone suggested applying to Indiana State University. He graduated in 2013 with his doctorate in philosophy in technology management specializing in quality systems.

"I wanted to specialize in packaging technology so we can get a better quality of produce over the next five to ten years in Ghana," said Aba.

This semester Aba teaches three classes at Indiana State, two technology courses and one packaging course. He is a secondary instructor in a machine class and also sat in on two engineering classes to gain better knowledge in that field.

"I have always had a passion for teaching and about sticking to the truth and acquiring knowledge," he said. "You have to seek truth to acquire knowledge by a scientific process."

Aba has been in the United States for four and a half years. His fiancée, Mary Exi Dzakpasu, who still lived in Ghana, wanted to earn her masters at Indiana State. They married in Ghana before she came over, but Aba, did not attend their wedding. Instead, one of his best friends stood in as a proxy.

"It was just like a full-fledged African wedding with all the fancy finery and all the color. From the pictures it looked like everyone acted like Eli was there, but he wasn't," said Krull.

Aba and his bride plan to have an American wedding this year.

Within the next few years he would like to move back to Ghana and be a part-time professor while starting a company that processes foods such as mangos, pineapples and such to make juice.

"I will put my goals on hold, I have to establish myself and get some experience and expertise to establish a business," said Aba.

Photo: Aba, Stephanie Krull and Mary Exi Dzakpasu

Writer: Beth Pickerill, media relations assistant, Office of Communications & Marketing,