By Wanjiku Mbugua
The Chinese Club in collaboration with other USIU-Africa students currently learning Chinese hosted the Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi Prof. Guo Hong, and several of her students on Wednesday, November 29 at the auditorium.
The Cultural Exchange was aimed at sensitizing the community and invited guests on the rich Chinese culture taught in class, while exposing them to Chinese calligraphy (书法), Chinese Operas face painting (脸谱), paper cutting (剪纸), use of chopsticks (夹豆子), martial arts (太极) among others.
During the event, USIU-Africa students presented two songs “月亮代表我的心 –The moon represents my heart” and “茉莉花 – Jasmine flower, as well as two poems, presented a Chinese dance and a Taiji performance.
It is expected that such cultural exchanges will go a long way in popularizing the learning of the Chinese language at USIU-Africa.
Citizen Science Associations of United States, Europe, Australia and Asia pledged support to establish Africa’s first Citizen Science Association in a meeting held at USIU-Africa on Monday December 4 as part their activities marking the 3rd UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA). A technical committee was appointed to assemble key stakeholders, develop policy and guide formation of the association.
Speaking at the meeting, Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza hailed “emergence of the democratization of research heralded by Citizen Science which will now be accelerated as part of the University’s drive to emphasize and promote use of High Performance Computing to provide solutions to challenges faced by the continent”.
Citizen Science will catalyze research and innovation by citizens and utilize the High Performance Computing (HPC) to be established at USIU-Africa, to process existing research data gathered by ordinary citizens to produce solutions for problems facing Africa. Some key themes identified for citizen engagement are air quality monitoring, marine, freshwater, chemical, land and soil, and waste pollution.
“The University will spearhead High Performance Computing and Citizen Science Association for Africa, as part of our mission to promote the discovery and application of knowledge” he added.
During the HPC for Research and Innovation Forum held at the auditorium on Friday, December 1, 2017, the need to harness available large volumes of data, to solve African problems was underlined.
High Performance Computing is the practice of aggregating computing power in a way that delivers much higher performance than one could get out of a typical desktop computer or workstation in order to solve large problems in science, engineering or business.
The School of Science and Technology (SST) in partnership with Transparency International Kenya and Code Africa hosted 45 USIU-Africa journalism students, mainstream media and freelance journalists and bloggers for a three-day training themed “Action for Transparency (A4T)”, at the Freida Brown Student Center, from Wednesday, November 29 to Friday, December 1.
Conducted by several experts including Assistant Professor of Journalism Dr. Maria Canudo, and Journalism Lecturer Isaiah Cherutich, and their colleagues from Kenya, South Africa, Germany and Spain, the training aimed at empowering participants with skills to investigate cases of suspected corruption or mismanagement of public funds and analyze financial or budgetary information relating to the health and education sectors.
The Action for Transparency Project is a collaboration with the Swedish-based Fojo Media Institute and Transparency International Kenya to use technology, aided by an empowered citizenry, to strengthen democratic accountability and transparency in Kenya through citizen monitoring of government expenditure.
The training was also expected to add value to the School of Science and Technology’s Journalism program, by teaching aspiring journalists how to authoritatively question and verify information from their sources in order to produce credible news stories.
In her brief remarks the Dean of the School of Science and Technology Prof. Valerie Adema, noted that the training came at an opportune time , as the University is planning to separate Journalism and Communication Studies programs from her School to form the proposed School of Communication, Cinematics and Creatives Arts. The new School will from Summer 2018 also host an additional two undergraduate programs; the Bachelor of Arts in Animation and the Bachelor of Science in Film Production and Directing.
Also present at the event was Transparency International’s Project Coordinator Mr. Abraham Marita, who urged to use their new skills to facilitate accountability in the budgetary processes of the public service delivery sectors.
In partnership with Intel and Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP), USIU-Africa hosted the HPC for Research and Innovation Forum on Friday, December 1, 2017, in the auditorium.
The forum brought together over 200 participants drawn from academia, industry and government agencies, to share insights on how HPCs can deliver gains through research and innovation to Africa.
High Performance Computing (HPC) is the concentration of computing resources to achieve higher rates of output in a manner that is fast, consistent and reliable and at scale. HPCs work on computational problems that are either too large for standard computers or would otherwise take too long to solve.
The Chancellor Dr. Manu Chandaria in his opening remarks noted the dire need for cooperation among stakeholders to achieve developmental goals, “HPCs when employed in Africa through the partnership of governments, private and public entities will see us use big data for research and innovation that will reduce disease epidemics, food crisis, growth in industries and in overall improve the continent’s GDP.”
His remarks were echoed by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza who underlined the University's commitment through its investment in robust STEM programs such as Applied Computer Technology, Information Systems and Technology and the new undergraduate program in Epidemiology and Biostatics, to "solve existing and emerging social, environmental, political, business and economic challenges facing Kenya, other developing nations and the world at large.”
The Keynote address was delivered by the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology Hon. Joseph Mucheru, who underlined the government's commitment to HPC stating that “the government is extremely committed in transforming Kenya to a digital economy that will aid improve food security, health, increase jobs and this can be done once we demystify the capabilities of HPC to all stakeholders.”
Three panel discussions took place throughout the day. The first dwelt on applying the HPC concept to development priority areas in Africa, and was moderated by Dr. Faye Briggs (President and CEO of Niminq, Inc - a Data Center & Big Data Solution Company - and Adjunct Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University). During the session, Mr. Edward Rakate from the Center for High Performance Computing in Cape Town, South Africa elaborated on his nation's investment in High Performance Computing and the pivotal collaborative relationship between the South African Government, which runs the Center, and universities which partner and plug into the Center to access its shared resources.
Dr. Paul Okanda (ICT Director) moderated a mid-morning session on "Role of HPC in Advancing Research, Teaching and Innovation" where universities' role in spreading the use of HPCs in other continents, and their need to develop academic programs that build on high performance computing power was reiterated.
Dr. Briggs also moderated the afternoon session that dwelt on "Big Data, Research and Development" where it was agreed that universities need to cooperate, and together with government lead the adoption of high performance computing, in order to use the large volume of data being generated, and to develop home-grown data-driven solutions to the continent's problems.
The forum concluded with awards to three students with the best projects that featured HPC applications. The Air Quality Monitoring Unit team comprising Max Musau (MBA), Bob Aftwa (APT Junior), Vishaal Ravalia (APT Junior) and Advait Joshi (APT Junior), used a sensor to sample air in order to determine the level of pollutants in that sample. The large volume of data collected would then be processed through a high performance computing device.
The first runner- up - Abishek Kapila (APT Senior) - designed a Distributed Raspberry Pi system which deployed low-power embedded devices using distributed computing in circumstances where a typical high performance computing environment may not be accessible.
Finally, second runner-up was Zebedee Wanyonyi (APT Senior) who used an Internet of Things transport solution around monitoring road conditions. Using various sensors such as geometers, gyroscopes to collect data from individual vehicles, his system could be used to map road conditions for use by other drivers, and road safety authorities.
Prof. Crispus Kiamba was elected as the Chair of the University Council: he takes over from Dr. Lola Odubekun who has successfully steered the University Council through the transition to a two-tier governance structure. Mr. Kris Senanu was elected Vice Chair of the University Council and retains his position as Chair of the Finance/Budget & Development Committee. Dr. Peggy Oti-Boateng replaces Prof. Crispus Kiamba as Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the University Council.
November is an important month in the university calendar. It’s the time when the university leadership retreats to take stock of the past year and plan for the next academic year. This year was no exception.

The 2017 Annual Retreat was preceded by the first ever in-house Orientation session for the Board of Trustees and members of the University Council. The session, held on November 9, 2017 featured presentations from the members of the Management Board on various issues. The objective was to enable the Board of Trustees & members of the University Council to have a better sense of the university’s points of lights (Distinctiveness, Successes and Challenges), separation of roles and fiduciary responsibilities, position the Management Board to inspire confidence & encourage Board & Council members to empower and support the Management Board.

The Board of Trustees, Chancellor, members of the University Council and Management Board then converged at the Windsor Golf Hotel & Country Club from Friday November 10, to Sunday November 12, to discuss various matters of strategic import and enterprise significance. The theme for this year’s Retreat was “Enhancing Institutional Capital: Recruitment, Resources, Reputation & Responsibility”.

The Retreat featured facilitators from South Africa, Ghana and the United Kingdom. Prof. Adam Habib (Vice Chancellor, University of Witwatersrand) engaged participants in an interactive session where emerging issues related to the higher education sector (Research, student aid, differentiation, arguments for and against the value proposition of higher education, et. al.) were discussed. Mr. Alex Hyde-Parker (Director, Fundraising at the University of Manchester) gave a presentation on the university’s preparedness for launching a capital campaign, while Dr. Paul Effah (Vice Chancellor, Radford University College, Ghana) walked members through issues of governance and effective leadership pointing out the need to provide targeted information for strategic decision-making. Mr. Dan Nduati (Class of 2007, CEO/Brand2D) and his colleague Mr. Mark Kaigwa took members through an engaging and enlightening presentation on building your reputation in the digital age.

During the course of the Retreat, members interacted with the Deans and Associate Deputy Vice Chancellors. In addition, they also embarked on a tour of the campus where they interacted with students and expressed a sense of pride and awe at the young minds that USIU-Africa is nurturing.

The highlight of the Retreat was the dinner in honor of Dr. Manu Chandaria, our beloved Chancellor. The dinner is a first in a series of activities aimed at celebrating Dr. Chandaria, his immense contribution to USIU-Africa and the deep love he has for the university.

 

On Wednesday, November 15 H.E. Dr. Mohammed Khayat, Saudi Ambassador to Kenya paid a courtesy call on the Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza in his boardroom. The one-hour meeting discussed areas of mutual interest, such as the Saudi government scholarships offers for Kenya from which USIU-Africa could benefit. Also discussed were opportunities for collaborative research in the areas of climate change, agriculture, and the extractive industries as USIU-Africa expands its academic programs in the STEM fields. The university is particularly interested in securing graduate scholarships from major countries represented in Kenya as part of its faculty capacity building efforts. Later on, the ambassador met with Prof. Amos Njuguna (Dean – School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension) and made a brief tour of the campus.

The School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension organized the fourth East African Multidisciplinary Applied Research Conference (EAMARC4) from November 14-16. The conference whose theme was “Sustainable Development Goals: Role of Research, Innovation and Capacity Building”, brought together distinguished researchers, different industry practitioners, professionals and students to share findings from their applied research along with experiences, achievements and challenges in their respective areas of proficiency

The conference was opened with a keynote address from Prof. Gituro Wainaina (former Director - Social & Political Pillars, Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat), following brief opening remarks from the Prof. Paul Zeleza (Vice Chancellor), and Prof. Amos Njuguna (Conference Convener and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension).

The first day featured a Professional Development Workshop, which brought together researchers in publishing. A panel discussion moderated by Dr. Juliana Namada, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management, featured editors from leading journals, who provided insights into publication and submission processes of various journals. The panel comprised Prof. Zakary Awino Bolo (Editor in Chief, Africa Management Review), Prof. Ntayi Joseph (Dean, Faculty of Computing and Management Science at Makerere University); Prof. Vincent Bagire (Assistant Editor, African Journal of Management and Africa Guest Editor for Transnational Journal of Business), Mr. Kennedy Auma (President, Medical Records Institute; Managing Editor, African Journal of Health Information Systems) and Prof. Barbara Hernandez (Director of Physician Vitality, Loma Linda University School of Medicine).

Another panel comprising Professor of French Prof. Kang’ethe Iraki (Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Language, Technology & Entrepreneurship in Africa), Prof. Jennifer Orwa (Director, Resource Development & Knowledge Management, Kenya Medical Research Institute; Editor in Chief,  Pharmaceutical Journal of Kenya), Prof. Dickson Andala (Editor-in-Chief, Kenya Chemical Society Journal) and Prof. Brian Distelberg (Director of Research, Loma Linda University), shared their own successes and challenges, and provided their own experiences on scholarly and academic development.

On the conference’s second day, a roundtable discussion on linking academia and industry, engaged participants in reflecting on the Sus-tainable Development Goals. The panel comprising Dr. Habil Olaka (DBA, ’17; CEO, Kenya Bankers Association), Ms. Ruth Canagarajah (Associate, Busara Center for Behavioral Economics) and Mr. Fredrick Riaga (Chief Manager - Public Policy and Research, Institute of Certified Public Accountant of Kenya), was moderated by Dr. Elizabeth Kalunda (Assistant Professor of Finance) and Dr. Joyce Ndegwa (Assistant Professor of Strategic Management).

49 papers ranging from strategic management, entrepreneurship, health & welfare, ICT, leadership, governance, management, arts and culture, education, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), environmental sustainability, finance and accounting were presented on day two and three of the conference, facilitated by faculty from USIU-Africa.

Keynote remarks at the closing ceremony were delivered by Ms Florah Mutahi (Chairlady, Kenya Association of Manufacturers) attended by Amb. Prof. Ruth Rono (Deputy Vice Chancellor - Academic and Student Affairs; Professor of Psychology), Prof. Munyae Mulinge (Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor - Academic Affairs; Professor of Sociology), Prof. Amos Njuguna (Professor of Finance) and Dr. George Achoki (Associate Professor of Accounting).
The Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza, has invited to the entire university to a baraza on Wednesday, November 15 beginning at 12.30pm. The hour-long meeting in the auditorium will provide the university community with key findings of the institutional self-study report to be submitted to the WASC Senior College and University Commission in support of the re-affirmation of USIU-Africa’s accreditation, which began in January this year.

Accreditation is a process of external quality review which serves to assure students, parents, policymakers, the broader educational community, and the general public that an institution has met high standards of effectiveness. USIU-Africa is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) - one of seven regional accrediting agencies in the United States. A major benefit of USIU-Africa’s accreditation is that credits and degrees are recognized for purposes of employment and transfer or admission to other institutions in the United States. Significantly, USIU-Africa’s accreditation is a testament to the rigorous international quality standards the university has maintained since 2005.

Every six, eight, or ten years, institutions accredited by WSCUC are reviewed to reaffirm their accreditation status. The two- to three-year process of reaffirmation of accreditation usually involves the completion of an institutional self-study and institutional report, an off-site review by WSCUC, and an on-site visit from the WSCUC team. 

The meeting will also conclude by addressing the next steps in the process.
13 contestants have been selected for the final of this year’s Mr. and Miss USIU-Africa-Africa beauty pageant. The contestants showcased their modeling skills and unique talents at a  ‘pre-judging’ event held on Thursday, November 2 in a packed and highly-energized auditorium.

The program started with an introductory walk by each of the contestants, to highlight their skill on the runway, followed by a ‘personality walk’ where each contestant expressed their unique style on the conventional runway walk. Contestants then paired up to perform a ‘couple walk’ and thereafter, each showcase their talents. In between the walks were performances by the dance club and some local musicians.

The panel of judges consisting of former Mr & Miss USIU-Africa 2016 Mr. Akintomide Akinyemi (IST, 17) Miss Kalpa Vrikshika (APT, ’17) and Miss Sheila Kanini selected finalist based on the contestants’ talents and their overall performance since the campaign began.

The ladies that secured their spot in the finale are Blessing Bakashaba (IR, Junior), Joycekayla Kiarie (IR, Sophomore), Mehreen Ahamed (Pharmacy, Sophomore), Mercy Onyango (Journalism Junior), Mercy Mwiti (IBA, Junior), Akual Chan (Criminal Justice Studies, Sophomore) Nelly Maina (Finance, Sophomore) and Eugenia Ignatius (IBA, Junior) . The gentlemen who qualified for the final are Aakash  Barot (APT, Junior), Faizal Ahmed (HRM, Freshman), Eric Ogwen (IR, Freshman), Caleb Prosper (IBA, Sophomore), Joseph Gordon (APT, Freshman), Adan Mohamed  (Accounting, Sophomore) and Denver Bagaka (IBA, Sophomore).

The talent showcase was won by Aakash  Barot (APT, Junior), Mercy Onyango (Journalism Junior), Mercy Mwiti (IBA, Junior), Eric Ogwen(IR Freshman), Joseph Gordon (APT, Freshman), Adan Mohamed (Accounting, Sophomore)  and Nelly Maina (Finance, Sophomore).

Kiambuthu Murugu (IR, Sophomore), one of the unsuccessful contestants was hopeful despite the disappointing showing, “I’m disappointed but I will keep looking out for more beauty pageant opportunities because this is what I love to do.”

This year the goal of the ‘pre-judging’ event is to raise funds for Al Taawon Education Center, a decrepit school located in the informal settlement of Korogocho, Nairobi. ­The Center lacks basic infrastructure for proper learning, a situation the pageant’s organizing committee is seeking to remedy by raising funds through the pageant. So far, they have raised a KES 100,000 – a far cry from their KES 4 million target. Despite this, the committee has high hopes of bridging this gap by securing the necessary sponsorships, coupled with high ticket sales before and during the pageant finale. The finale is scheduled for Thursday, November 23 at Nairobi’s newest mall - Two Rivers Shopping Mall, marking the end of the four-month-long campaign.