Through a “journey of self-discovery and exploration,” Mississippi State Assistant Professor Saddiq Dzukogi found the “something” he had been looking for—direction and purpose for his career.
“I initially pursued studies in physics, drawn to the endless possibilities and mysteries of the natural world, but I began to realize that something was missing—a spark that would ignite my soul and give purpose to my life,” said Dzukogi, a native of Minna in Niger State, Nigeria.
“It was during my studies in mass communication at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria that I first discovered the transformative power of language and storytelling, even though poetry had been a hobby for long before then. I was captivated by how words could shape our perceptions of reality. With this renewed sense of purpose, I embarked on a journey towards a Ph.D., with the goal of teaching others about the beauty and power of language. It is a journey that continues to this day, guided by the wisdom of my experiences and the passion that drives me forward.”
Five years ago, Dzukogi received a scholarship to study English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and began his journey in the U.S.
An MSU faculty member in the Department of English since fall 2022, Dzukogi teaches Intermediate Poetry Writing, Introduction to Creative Writing, and Craft of Poetry, a position he began immediately after finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I liked what I saw when I came for the interview—a cordial environment where I can be afforded the opportunity to achieve my dreams, as an educator and poet,” he said.
As a poet, Dzukogi is making a global name for himself, winning the Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry, a prestigious U.S. award, and being named a finalist—one of three individuals worldwide—for the Nigeria Prize for Literature for his poetry collection “Your Crib, My Qibla.”
“Your Crib, My Qibla” was named one of the 29 best poetry collections by Oprah Daily last year. It additionally was co-winner of the Julie Suck Award. Dzukogi also is author of the chapbook, “Inside the Flower Room” (Akashic Books, 2017), which was selected by for the New-Generation African Poets Chapbook Series of the African Poetry Book Fund. His work is featured in various magazines including Kenyon Review, Cincinnati Review, Poetry Magazine and Prairie Schooner.
Dzukogi was a finalist for the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.
Referring to his awards as “an incredible honor,” Dzukogi said receiving accolades for his work provides validation. “These laurels helped me feel like my work was making a difference. As a writer, my goal is to create art that inspires and moves people, challenges their assumptions, and expands their understanding of the world. I feel like these prizes give me a bigger platform to do that. They now serve as a spur to continue writing and exploring the beauty and complexities of the human experience through poetry.”
Using his career to make a meaningful impact on the lives of his students, Dzukogi said he wants to learn and grow alongside students and to contribute to the intellectual and cultural vitality of MSU.
“I believe that my job as an educator allows me to make a positive impact on this generation of students by equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to become informed, engaged and compassionate members of society and to foster a sense of intellectual curiosity and community in the classroom.
“While I have embarked on a new journey in life, there are moments when I can't help but feel a sense of longing for home. I miss Minna—the effervescent culture, the delicious cuisine. I yearn for harmattan season, which would sweep through the city and rustle the leaves of trees. I can still recall the exhilarating smell of street food, like suya, massa, and balango, wafting through the air and tempting my taste buds, even as I sit in my backyard here in Starkville, Mississippi.”
But, Dzukogi said, his desire is to make a lasting impact on the world, something he feels he can do at MSU.
“I believe the key to creating meaningful change lies in our ability to shape the next generation of leaders. As an educator, I am afforded the privilege of working within the small yet infinitely powerful space of the classroom. Here, I can inspire and empower young minds, instilling in them knowledge, skills and values. By nurturing the potential of each student, I am helping to create a future where compassion, creativity and critical thinking are the hallmarks.”