Leading by Example

MARIETTA, Ga. | May 29, 2018

Alumnus leveraged exchange program, CLEP to earn degree

In his home country of Cameroon, Freeman Talla was taught the eldest child must lead the way for his siblings. The oldest of five, he said there has been plenty of opportunity to show the others how to build future success through a first-rate education and a dash of forward thinking.

Talla, who graduated from Kennesaw State University this month with a degree in electrical engineering technology, said his goals of becoming an engineer were set long before he ever stepped foot on the Marietta Campus. While studying at PKFokam Institute of Excellence in Yaounde, Cameroon, Talla discovered a passion to help others and crafted his career so that he could return home one day and improve the quality of life for his fellow Cameroonians.

Freeman Talla

“At the core of being an engineer is having the ability to solve problems,” he said. “It wasn’t enough to solve problems for my own sake; I wanted to make other lives better. I would like to start with where I came from and make Cameroon a better place. With a degree in electrical engineering technology, I feel like the right path is to focus on bringing affordable energy systems to everyone.”

Following his third year at the PKFokam Institute of Excellence, Talla transferred to Kennesaw State, which has active exchange agreements with more than 30 institutions across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. Talla said he was immediately struck by the quality of both the faculty and facilities at KSU when he arrived in January 2017.

“I was amazed by the technology and how furnished the labs were,” he recalled. “I was also impressed by knowledgeable faculty and how available my lecturers were. They went to great lengths to help me and my classmates with their projects.”

After arriving at the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, Talla said he learned that he could also benefit from taking College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests in order to reduce the amount of time it would take him to earn a degree. Kennesaw State is one of many institutions nationwide that offer credit in exchange for CLEP. From the 2013 to 2017 academic years, 2,051 students earned 6,060 credit hours at KSU via CLEP. Talla completed two exams earning him 16 credit hours in chemistry and French. His exam fees were paid for by the Modern States Education Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to making college education free to those who seek it.

While at KSU, Talla carried with him a work ethic that had been instilled in him while studying in Cameroon. At PKFokam, anything less than an 80 was considered a failing score. He went on to make the president’s list in each of the semesters he attended Kennesaw State. Talla credits his professors, particularly Jeff Wagner, an assistant professor of electrical engineering technology, for their effectiveness in teaching complex subjects.

“Professor Wagner didn’t assume that I knew everything coming into his course,” he said. “He took me from rock bottom and made sure I understood every principle behind the subject matter.”

Talla has since accepted a position as an electronics engineer for United Technologies Corporation, where he will work on firmware for smoke detectors and fire alarm systems. After gaining valuable industry experience, becoming a professional engineer and earning an advanced degree in business administration, Talla said he intends to return home to create a solar power company that serves all Cameroonians regardless of social status. He hopes his siblings, too, will see that they can use an education to make a difference.

“I like to see myself as an example,” Talla said. “I’ve seen myself as that person since I left Cameroon.”

– Travis Highfield

Photos by David Caselli

Related Stories

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.