• November 29th, 2020

At home with Anicia Peters - Likeable and invaluable scientist

She became the first Namibian dean at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) in 2015 and went on to start several initiatives such as the Namibia Women in Computing conference and three chapters of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), she eats sleeps and breathes Information Technology.

 Anicia Peters (48) is a computer scientist, specialising in human-computer interaction (HCI), a specialised field in Computer Science. She is the pro-vice-chancellor for Research, Innovation and Development at the University of Namibia (Unam).
Previously, she was the dean of the Faculty of Computing and Informatics (FCI) and an associate professor in computer science at Nust.
There is however, more to it than meets the eye as Peters like many Namibians come from a modest upbringing where she and her family lived in a corrugated iron house. She was born in a central town of Namibia, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, Rehoboth.
“Some things that people may not know about me is that I come from a very humble background where we lived in a corrugated iron house, six brothers in total with no sister. I was born in Rehoboth but grew up mostly in Khomasdal, Windhoek. I lived in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. I returned to Namibia late 2015,” shared Peters.  

Peters has an immaculate resume with a variety of accolades, which includes a (Doctor of Philosophy) PhD and MSc (Masters of Science) in Human-Computer Interaction (both 100% average or summa cum laude) from Iowa State University in the United States.
“I also have a B. Tech in Information Technology (Cum laude), National Diploma in Business Computing from the Polytechnic of Namibia, SAP Certified, Oracle, and others.”

Interest in IT
“Interest in IT came when I lived in Germany in 1990 and attended some courses, but mostly, I realised how powerful it was and was going to be. I also worked in the Ministry of Finance where we developed large scale government software systems and I realised that although we can build all the best technology in the world, tech design and development has to be people-centred and developed together with end-users, otherwise it will fail.”
Peters said if she wasn’t a computer scientist, she would have pursued a career in Aerospace engineering, Mechanical engineering or be a Material Scientist.

Family and motherly duties
Peters, middle name van Schalkwyk has been married for 24 years to Brian Peters after being together for 29 years. The mother of five (two biological girls, 23 and 18 years old living in the United States), two adopted girls (seven and 13), and a guardian for one girl (18) said she is a busy bee and is forever filled with activities.
“My girls Regine, Anina, Francelle, Moesha and Kisa say I am a very competitive gamer. I can’t tell jokes but I have a great sense of humour. I write fiction, poetry, and my oldest daughter, also writes slam poetry. Otherwise, I saw my African garments and I also do my hair,” she said with laughter.

Peters said her routine includes early morning school drop-offs since they have to go to four different schools for their girls.
“I work until 16h30 and usually afterwards I attend to supervisory needs of either my Master and my PhD students or spill-over meetings. Otherwise, I schedule my international collaboration meetings to after-dinner hours. I then have dinner and family time with my family before returning to my laptop to catch up on work-related or international service to research community matters,” summed Peters.
 Her dinner table and feasting may include her favourite meal, which is slow-cooked meat. 
“When it comes to drinking, I prefer coffee with milk and no sugar. I am a fan of slow-cooked meat, preferably goat meat. Yes, both my husband and I used to cook, but now our daughters mostly cook. My husband and my daughters bake, but I don’t bake. My father taught me to cook and my mother taught me how to sew.”

Family time is everything to her so she makes sure she spends it with her loved ones. “We have movie nights and/or game nights over weekends as a favourite past time. I never get bored as I usually have multiple things that keep me busy. And how I de-stress sometimes is by hanging out with my cousins, doing a girls night with movies.”
Staying with millennials, means doing things they do and Peters said that includes looking at memes and taking things lightly when the pressure hits. “I find the funny side of any situation, sometimes even all too serious situations. I love what I do, so the passion gets me through very tough situations.”

Pet peeves
If you want to be in the good books of Peters, don’t over indulge with the alcohol and belittle others, especially when it comes to her students as she sees potential in all of them.
“I do not like it when people get too drunk. Never call any student low quality – I believe that we are educators and measured by how well our graduates are performing at the end of their time with us. I do not like it when people just spew negativity.”
She added: “I usually see more opportunities than problems and believe the best in people (students). I am a storyteller, I have been told that I am a creative soul and good with improvising, innovation and being a 3D thinker.”

Food for thought
“Just do it – make a start, the rest usually falls in place. Everyone has doubts – but failure is part of success. Let no-one define you – define and craft your own identity – be comfortable in your skin.”
    – psiririka@nepc.com.na

Paheja Siririka
2020-11-13 08:59:50 | 15 days ago

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