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Jul 10, 2022 News, Special Person
Inspiring people to become the best version of themselves…
“One of the keys to a successful life is balance. Even in your professional career or in pursuit of purpose, you must ask yourself: Why am I doing this? That should lead to a question of legacy.”
By Rehanna Ramsay
Kaieteur News – With More than 15 years of experience at the national regional and multilateral levels in the Information Communications and Technology (ICT) sector, Guyanese-born Professor Seon Levius, who is based in New York, has a track record of inspiring confidence and challenging his stakeholders to take bold steps towards achieving their desired end.
His rare ability to inspire and forge partnerships through a common goal has led Prof. Levius on a long journey of success in his academic and business career. This week’s ‘Special Person’, who started his career as an officer cadet in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), has made a point of always putting his best foot forward.
Whether he is lecturing to a class full of expectant State University graduates or thousands of people at a TED talk forum, Prof. Levius’ objective is always to help the people who are fortunate to cross paths with him become the best version of themselves.
Starting out from a humble beginning in his native Guyana, Prof. Levius has a professional portfolio which includes his current post as an Assistant Professor of Technology, Business Administration at the State University of New York at Potsdam. Prof. Levius also works as an ICT consultant and business coach, building capacity, policy formulation, negotiation, and working in regional banking and other sectors.
For his formal education, the New York-Based Guyanese boasts of graduating from the Harvard Business School, Boston, MA with a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA), having Information Systems Management credentials from Walden University, Minneapolis, MN, a Master of Science (MSc) on Information Systems Management from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK, as well as the University of Guyana, Diploma in Public Management in which he completed six courses with distinction.
Born in the mining of Linden, at Wismar, Prof. Levius grew up in Charlestown, Georgetown. He shared, “I am the younger of the two siblings. My mother, a seamstress by profession raised me as a single parent.” Growing up in Charlestown, Prof. Levius saw that children of single-parent households were generally poorer and often dropped out of secondary school.
He noted, nonetheless, that he never thought about dropping out because his mother raised him to work for what he wanted. “She encouraged me that education was the only sure path forward to break the cycle of generational poverty and to realise my highest potential,” recalled Prof. Levius.
After completing his secondary education at St John’s College, the young Levius watched some of his friends advance to the University of Guyana (UG) to pursue their tertiary education. This was not a practical option for the then high school graduate as his mother was not in a financial position to give that support. It was then, that he decided to join the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) as an Officer Cadet and attended the Standard Officer Cadet Course 3, in 1998. But after only six weeks on the course, the young trainee experienced a stress fracture of the tibia and fibula, which made it impossible for him to complete the course. As faith would have it, a decision was made by the senior officers, to have him restart the training the following year with Standard Officer Cadet Course 32 and in 1999, he was commissioned as the youngest Second Lieutenant in the GDF.
“I was also awarded the Best Military Shot prize during that commissioning ceremony,” Prof. Levius shared.
The career academic recalled that his transition from the military to civilian life was bold and really called for a leap of faith. He related that he wanted to pursue a career in information technology having no formal education in the field.
In 2005, he attempted a Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) course but failed his first examination. But with one-month terminal leave remaining from the GDF, he was able to pass his first industry professional certification examination. Ultimately, Levius secured a job as System Administrator at Citizens Bank Guyana where he served until leaving the shores of Guyana in 2008.
As part of his duties, Levius led the information and communication technology portfolios for two Caribbean intergovernmental and multilateral agencies based in Barbados.
He recalled, “It was during this period I understood the meaning of the word resilience. More importantly, I understood how my early childhood experiences were shaping the person I was becoming.”
BUSINESS AND ACADEMIA
During his tenure leading two Caribbean intergovernmental and multilateral agencies based in Barbados, Prof. Levius discovered that effective use of ICT can lead businesses to attain the intended return on investments. This understanding encouraged him to pursue a master’s in information systems management, a Doctor of Business Administration, and Executive Education at Harvard Business School.
He explained, “This was not enough as I discovered that many of the shortcomings in the Caribbean relating to entities not truly benefitting from their ICT investments were due to deficiencies in our regional Caribbean educational system.”
The Professor also emphasised the direct benefits of a correlation between business and academia.
He noted that for him merging business and academia was a natural fit. “I wanted to be part of the solution and so a career in academia as a professor where I could reach more people at their point of need seemed like a natural progression,” he added.
In 2017, Prof. Levius was invited by the Barbados ICT Professionals’ Association (BIPA) to deliver a presentation to answer the question, “Does an ICT Industry exist in Barbados and the Caribbean? He concluded that the nature of the current school system in many Caribbean countries stifles creativity because of an emphasis on standardised testing.
“I believe that schools should not only teach kids to be independent thinkers and problem solvers but should help them to stimulate creativity. The innovations in ICT activity or any perceived economic benefit can only be realised if we in the Caribbean and Guyana make radical changes to our education system; teaching our students how to use their imaginations,” Prof Levius shared.
INSPIRE AND ENCOURAGE
Today as a tenure track professor at the State University of New York at Potsdam, Prof. Levius uses that platform to inspire and encourage hundreds of students every year to live purpose-driven lives.
He said, “I teach in the Master of Science in management programme — the first fully online degree programme at SUNY Potsdam, pioneering the technology track where I focus on cybersecurity, network architecture, network management, data management, and business process analysis.” He continued, “My work also allows me to work with students from other MBA programmes such as Clarkson University in New York where I focus on Human Resource Management.” Speaking about the highlight of his career, Prof. Levius said thus far, it has really been the scores of students whose, lives have been changed forever because of his teaching approach. He said, “I receive dozens of success stories every month since I started teaching in 2017 from present and former students at all the educational institutions where I teach and use my unique approach.” Levius also shared the philosophy behind his approach to teaching. He said that it is rooted in students answering five fundamental questions, i.e., “Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Where am I from? and What can I do?”
The professor explained that exploring these five questions with students allows him to help them establish their “why.” “A strong “why” helps students keep their head in the game even when they feel like they can’t go any further, and it unleashes a fearless determination for them to win. The idea of “coaching business can thus summarise my teaching philosophy,” he added. According to Levius, this approach was beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic as he was able to “lift the spirits of my students whenever they seemed broken and disillusioned. ‘It is the idea that every student already has within them gifts to unleash. But this can only be achieved through focus and hard work. One student wrote in the fall 2020 semester’,” he revealed
As if to confirm what he already knew, Prof. Levius’ recently concluded TEDx Talk generated rave reviews from a vast number of online viewers.
To this end, he told Kaieteur New’s magazine, The Waterfalls, that he is constantly motivated by the outpouring from students and ordinary people whose lives have been changed by the message of living a purpose-driven life. Prof Levius is quite intentional about his audience and those he shares his message to. He explained that he is often asked why he doesn’t move on to one of the Ivy League Universities and his reply is: “the folks there don’t need the message I was born to deliver.”
For this, his work has not gone unnoticed. In 2020, Prof. Levius was awarded the Thomas L. and Jane D. Russell Distance Education Faculty Excellence Award for his pedagogy using inquiry-based learning. In 2021, he was appointed SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador because of his teaching excellence, and this year he was nominated again for the Thomas L. and Jane D. Russell Distance Education Faculty Excellence Award.
Prof. Levius shared, “One of the keys to a successful life is balance. Even in your professional career or in pursuit of purpose, you must ask yourself: Why am I doing this? That should lead to a question of legacy.”
He noted “… I believe that relationships are our greatest resource. Everything that will come to us will come through a person. So, we must be careful how we treat people, even if we disagree with their theology.” Given his open-minded approach to life, Prof Levius has been earmarked by the University of Cienfuegos in Cuba to speak at two religious conferences for two consecutive years. He noted that while his messages are not designed to be religious, he believes it is able to reach those steep in spirituality and those seeking to find a deeper level of human consciousness.
He explained that “it is the idea that we can reach a level where we can defy the gravitational pull of materialism and materiality and rise above identification with form that keeps the ego in place and condemns us to imprisonment within their own personality.”
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