Professor Mary Jossy Nakandha Okwakol is the founding Vice Chancellor of Busitema University, a public University focusing on science and technology. Prior to moving to Busitema University, she served as Deputy Vice Chancellor of Gulu University – another public University - of which she was one of the founding leaders.

She previously held various positions at Makerere University from 1973, rising to full Professor of Zoology in 1999.  The graduates taught/supervised/mentored by Professor Okwakol over the years, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, are making important contributions towards development nationally and globally – in education, research, and  environment and natural resources management, among others.

 As a Researcher/ Research Leader, she has participated in many projects and published widely. Her expert knowledge in environment and natural resource management has earned her consultancies on a variety of development projects. She is a member of many professional bodies and her contributions have been recognized with awards from various institutions. Professor Okwakol is one of the few women scientists in Uganda who have contributed immensely to the advancement of the sciences, and she stands out as an icon of science.

She has served on many Boards and Councils at community, national, regional and international levels. Those she has led at national level include the Uganda Wildlife Society of which she was the founding Chairperson. She served as Chairperson of the Forum for African Women Educationalists Uganda Chapter (FAWEU) for six years (2003 – 2009) during which period hundreds of bright but needy girls were helped to access secondary education. She, in addition, initiated the FAWEU Higher Education Scholarship programme which supports needy girls to access University and Tertiary education. She is a Founder Member of the Uganda Women’s Finance Trust and served on the organisation’s Board for many years, six of them as Chairperson. She has also been a member of the Boards of the Uganda Wildlife Education Center, Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda, and the National Environment Management Authority.

At Africa regional level, Professor Okwakol has served as member of Council of the African Soil Science Society, Liaison Officer of the African Network of Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility programme, Vice Chairperson of the Governing Council of the East African Wild Life Society, and currently serving on the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), initially as a Member for three years, then as Honorary Secretary.  In those capacities she contributed to supporting thousands of needy girls to access education in over thirty African countries

At the global level, she served as Chairperson (1998-2001) of the International Board of Management of the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Programme (TSBF) and Chairperson of the Global Steering Committee 2004-2005) of the GEF/UNEP funded Project on Below Ground Biodiversity for Sustainable Land Production, implemented by seven Tropical countries, and also as a member of the project’s Global Advisory Committee.  She was Chairperson of the Organising Committee for the 8th International Interdisciplinary Women’s World 2002 Congress (hosted by Makerere University) that attracted over 2000 participants, and served as a member of the Organising Committee of the 4th World Women University Women Presidents Forum that was held in Nanjing, China, in September 2009.


Professor Okwakol is a lady of many “firsts” in her life, besides being the first girl born to her parents. She is the first woman Vice Chancellor of a public University in Uganda; the first Vice Chancellor of Busitema University; the first Deputy Vice Chancellor of Gulu University; the first woman Professor of Zoology at Makerere University; the first woman member of the Board of Trustees of the Uganda National Parks in 40 years; and the first woman Chairperson of the International Board of Management of the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Programme; and the first woman Chairperson of the Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB).

Professor Okwakol’s contributions towards development have been variously recognized nationally and internationally. In 1998 she received a long service award from Makerere University, she was recognized as International Woman of the Year (1997/98) in the area of Environment Conservation by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, while FAWE Uganda recognized her as Model of Excellence in 1999.  She has, in addition, received awards of recognition and/or appreciation from the Namagunga Old Girls’ Association (2000, 2014), the Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (2001), the Uganda Wildlife Authority (2004), the Uganda Women’s Finance Trust (2005), Busoga University (2005), the Rubaga Cathedral National Foundation (2005), FAWE Africa (2008, 2011), the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development and National Environment Management Authority (2009).  In December 2011 she received the Africa – India Partnership Educational Excellence Award in recognition of outstanding contribution to Education and in May 2013 was awarded the 50th Independence Anniversary Medal in recognition of outstanding service in the field of education.

Professor Okwakol holds a Doctorate degree in Zoology from Makerere University, is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society of London and a Fellow of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences. In March 2010, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate “Doctor Honoris Causa” degree, by Josai International University (Japan), in recognition of her global leadership in Education and Research.

Professor Okwakol is married to Mr. Nathan Okwakol – a lawyer, who is an Advocate of Uganda’s Courts of Judicature, with whom she has had three children – Grace Racheal Kiyai, an Accountant; Dr. Elizabeth Akurut Emuku, a Medical Doctor; and Samuel Okwakol Atubet, a Lawyer.


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