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A former Microsoft engineer has received one of the highest honors in the world — a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.”

Patrick Awuah is being recognized with the prestigious award, which includes the esteemed label of being a MacArthur Fellow and $625,000.

Awuah founded Ashesi University in 2002, a four-year school in Ghana that offers a “core curriculum grounded in liberal arts, ethical principles, and skills for contemporary African needs and opportunities,” according to the MacArthur Foundation site.

Awuah is from Ghana, but went to university in America and started a career at Microsoft after graduation. It was the “stark contrast between his college experience, which stressed critical thinking and problem solving, and the rote learning common in Ghana’s educational system” that inspired him to start his own organization, the MacArthur Foundation states.

The Asheshi school has a strong emphasis on STEM skills and business development, but also ethics and gender diversity. One of the coolest updates posted on the Asheshi site is about its commitment to enrolling equal numbers of women and men in its engineering program, which started this fall.

Awuah was an engineer and program manager at Microsoft from 1989­–1997, according to his MacArthur bio, before founding the school. He is also a TED fellow.

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