SPEECH BY THE VICE CHANCELLOR, PROF. PAUL ZELEZA, DURING THE 50th Anniversary GALA DINNER HELD ON NOVEMBER 8, 2019
The Chief Guest, Dr. Kevit Desai
Board of Trustees
The Chancellor, Dr. Manu Chandaria
Faculty, students, staff and alumni present
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here today as we celebrate 50 years of an institution whose purpose Dr. William Rust envisioned as doing significant, worthwhile work on a limited basis. I am sure that all of you can agree that we have kept up this spirit, and that USIU-Africa has done unlimited, significant and game changing work!
As we look at the last fifty years, I would like to recognize and appreciate the visionaries who led this institution and worked extremely hard to ensure that USIU-Africa is at the place that it is today. Today we fondly remember Dr. William C. Rust who was the first president of California Western University in the US. We cannot forget the generous contribution of Dr. Lilian Beam who purchased 20 acres of property in Kasarani, Nairobi where the campus moved to in 1991. In 1994, Professor Freida Brown assumed the position of the first Vice Chancellor following the award of its Charter from the Kenyan Government, succeeded Dr. Beam as Executive Director and served USIU-Africa for a total of 21 years.
This occasion comes at a time when we are concluding our strategic plan. We are proud of the achievements that we have been able to accomplish in the last five years and I would like to highlight some of them. During this period, we successfully launched four programs namely BSc. Finance, BA. Film Production and Directing, BSc. Epidemiology & Biostatistics, MA. Marriage & Family Therapy. The launch of the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension has seen our research productivity increase in the last two years. The pride of any university lies in its ability to engage in cutting edge research and we aim to continue increasing our research productivity in the next strategic plan. Our research and academic partnerships have also grown significantly and are impacting students, staff and faculty.
USIU-Africa @50: A legacy of academic excellence
From a humble beginning in 1977 offering accredited full degree programs in Business Administration, Psychology and International Relations to a renowned private university in Kenya. The university did not reach the 500 mark in student enrolments until 1995. Enrollment has continued to grow from the initial 5 students in 1969 to 8383 at the end of the 2017-2018 Academic Year and 73 different nationalities from across the world are represented. The number of academic programs expanded from 4 in 1990 to 10 in 2000 and 16 in 2010 and currently offering 27 fully accredited programs. USIU-Africa has a financial aid budget of Kes. 102, 000, 000 accessible through twenty nine programs. These achievements continue to be our greatest strength and are a clear indication of the legacy of academic excellence over the last fifty years.
In its fifty years, USIU-Africa has always strived to ensure that we go the extra mile to ensure the employability of our graduates by implementing several path breaking initiatives, and in so doing, put them at the vanguard of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
The work place is already experiencing significant shifts and USIU-Africa is adapting to that change. A majority of jobs being created are in emerging fields, particularly in the ICT sector. According to the World Economic Forum, four specific technological advances—ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; Artificial Intelligence; widespread adoption of Big Data Analytics; and cloud technology—are set to dominate the next four years as drivers positively affecting business growth. As more young people continue to enter the job markets, these are the key areas we must innovate in order to stay relevant.
By establishing initiatives such as the AppFactory, the only one in Kenya and the 14th one in Africa in partnership with Microsoft, the Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Program supported by the Devki Group, the Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunities Project in partnership with the World Bank, the Coding for Employment Center of Excellence through the African Development Bank, the Innovation and Incubation Centre at USIU-Africa, the Social Media Lab (SIMELab) supported by the American Embassy, we have given our students an opportunity to develop and hone their skills before entering the job market.
Our efforts have not gone unrewarded. We have been recognized at the prestigious CIO 100 Annual Awards, where we scooped the education award and the 15th spot in the top 100 firms recognized for their innovative use of ICT. We have also been recognized by KENET as having the best internet connectivity for the past two years. This award recognizes the University’s efforts towards providing the highest bandwidth per student ratio amongst all Higher Education Institutions nationally.
A legacy of service excellence
Since 2015, the USIU-Africa community has become part of a larger movement that is changing the narrative for students pursing higher education. USIU-Africa is committed to attracting the very best students from across the globe, to study and learn at all levels, regardless of their background or circumstance.
We are proud of our community and initiatives that we have been working on for the last fifty years. One notable initiative is Educate Your Own (EYO), which is a student driven initiative whose overall goal is achieving a zero dropout rate among continuing USIU-Africa experiencing financial constraints.
A legacy of operational excellence
Our success could not have been without the meticulous planning and execution by highly qualified staff. USIU-Africa has implemented several management initiatives that has seen it improve on its efficiency and service delivery in the last two years. Restructuring both staff and faculty positions to match the new management structures was done to ensure that the University attracts and retains the best talent in the country.
In 2016 and 2017, USIU-Africa won the African Excellence Awards under the category science and education and crisis communications respectively.
The creation of new structures of doing business, introduction of new divisions and departments were instrumental in providing guidance on the way forward. In addition, people management has become part and parcel of the discussion in the workplace to foster productivity.
The University is constantly growing in order to deliver on its mandate. This involves a rigorous and intensive manpower planning that informs the hiring process guided by the needs at the University and overall strategic growth. In 2018, USIU-Africa was among ten other institutions of higher learning that participated in the annual Employer of the Year awards and only two of those institutions were recognized. USIU-Africa emerged top ten in the overall tally and it was recognized under the workplace environment and responsible business conduct categories respectively. The implementation of job evaluations, organization review process and restructuring job grades to match the market rates were some of the successes that led to this recognition.
In 2019, USIU-Africa was ranked in position 7 overall under the Responsible Business Conduct category. USIU-Africa was the university and non-profit institution to be recognized and ranked in this category.
USIU-Africa: The University of the Future
We are equally optimistic of the future. In the pursuit of academic, operational and service excellence, we will continue to expand our academic programs and research productivity, revenues and fundraising, physical and electronic facilities, human resources and employee performance, external partnerships and linkages with the private sector, public sector agencies, community organizations, and international and intergovernmental organizations.
Our intentional focus on personalized teaching and learning materials, quality faculty and state of the art learning facilities have delivered more than 19,300 all-rounded and achieving graduates. As we move forward we are now focusing on raising these standards even higher by lowering the faculty to students ratio to 1:31 as we hire more faculty; launching the first full online programs, launching new cutting edge academic programs namely: Masters in Cyber Security, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, Gaming, among others, provision of technology to enhance the already high standards of learning materials and facilities, doubling the classrooms and learning spaces with completion of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS), construction of a 1,200 bed capacity student hostel complex and completion of the new hospital complex for research, teaching and learning.
We are proud of our achievements in the past 50 years, and it is our sincere hope that we will surpass these achievements over the course of the next 50 years. In 50 years, USIU- Africa hopes to have been at the forefront of the achievement of one of the African Union’s goals, namely: “ “[To] build and expand an African knowledge society through transformation and investments in universities, science, technology, research and innovation; and through the harmonization of education standards and mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications [as well as] establish an African Accreditation Agency to develop and monitor educational quality standards across the continent.”