Dr. Ifeanyi Okpala’s path to and time at The University of Alabama is nothing short of remarkable. From the time he was growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Okpala knew he wanted to improve the world around him.
Okpala’s passion prompted him to pursue graduate education, and the investment of UA Graduate School Ambassadors and engineering professors led him to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. At UA, Okpala not only secured a world-class education, but he also made a name for himself within the engineering field and began to make the difference he hoped to see in the world.
Okpala had heard of UA’s numerous championships on and off the field, and he proved effective at continuing the winning tradition.
During his time at UA, Okpala co-authored 13 peer-reviewed publications. His work with Dr. Chuma Nnaji resulted in an Outstanding Master’s Thesis award from the department of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and his thesis was published in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Journal of Construction Engineering and Management.
Okpala received numerous scholarships and fellowships to fund his education and research and was awarded prestigious designations such as Outstanding Graduate Student at The University of Alabama, College of Engineering Graduate Student of the Year, and Civil Engineering Graduate Student of the Year.
Okpala took advantage of experiential learning opportunities by serving as a graduate assistant and as an instructor, as well as attending yearly conferences through support from the Graduate School. He also collaborated with industry leaders including The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Bioservo Technologies.
More than an education, Okpala pursued the opportunity to have a positive influence. He was elected and served as president of the African Students Association and served for two years on the Career Center’s student advisory board. He volunteered his time as a Graduate School Ambassador and Teaching Fellow. He also served as a peer mentor through the Tide Together Mentoring Program.
Having earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering with a specialization in construction engineering and management, Okpala returned to industry practice as a project engineer on the global projects team with ExxonMobil. When asked what impact he hopes his education and resulting career will have, Okpala said, “I hope it allows me to innovate with technology and work on projects that meet human needs. I believe that’s what engineering is.”
But Okpala hasn’t forgotten his deep Alabama roots and Alabama hasn’t forgotten him. Okpala was part of the inaugural 18 under 31 Young Alumni Awards class recently inducted at The University of Alabama. This award honors legendary young alumni who have made a vital impact on their industry, field and community.
For Okpala’s part, he sees value in giving back to the place that helps solidify his legend. Okpala is a member of the Capstone Engineering Society, which among other things contributes to engineering student scholarships. Okpala is one of the many College of Engineering students whose legacy begins at The University of Alabama.