SPEECH BY THE CHANCELLOR, DR. MANU CHANDARIA, DURING THE 42ND COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY OF THE UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY-AFRICA HELD ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2020.

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The Chief Guest

Board of Trustees

University Council

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza

University Senate

Management Board

Faculty, students, staff and alumni present

Parents and guardians,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

And the Graduating Class of 2020

Good Morning,

I am delighted to join you today as we honor the graduating class of 2020, and welcome you to this unique and first virtual graduation ceremony. This is truly a defining moment for all students across the globe graduating this year and specifically for USIU-Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen

When the pandemic started in December 2019, no one knew the shape and form it would take. No one would predict the global disruption that it has caused. Now, almost ten months into the pandemic, we are able to understand and see that our lives will never be the same again. From loss of lives, livelihoods, long held freedoms of travel, learning, socializing and many other disruptions. This pandemic has taught us that we cannot continue doing things the same way and expect different results; it has forced us to adapt in so many ways. And this graduating class is an example of many people who have had to adapt to the new normal and embrace the change that has come with it. You embraced the digital shift by taking your classes online and are the first graduating class in our history to graduate virtually. Truly the vision of this great institution continues to be embodied in everything that we do: To be a premier institution of academic excellence with a global perspective.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am particularly proud of the entire USIU-Africa community for managing this transition so well. Their individual efforts have ensured that we continue offering unparalleled quality education not only in Kenya but in East Africa as well. The transition to online teaching and learning was almost seamless, and although occasioned with several challenges, we were able to forge forward.

I am also delighted to share that our community also contributed significantly to ensure that students were able to receive the support they needed through the University COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund initiative that is aiding students who have been adversely affected by the effects of the pandemic. Our drive to give back to the community is what makes USIU-Africa unique.

Ladies and Gentlemen

But this pandemic is not the end- and it should not be the end. Let it be start of something new, something never seen and done before. Allow me to share my key learning lessons during this unprecedented time;

1. Career. As you enter the job market, it is important that you chart you own path, a unique path. The workplace has experienced a significant shift in the last nine months, a significant shift that has not been experienced in over a decade. We were accustomed to the daily commute to our work places and that has been dismantled. We were working behind a desk, in a specific location, now you can work from anywhere. Multinationals across the world have been forced to adapt and introduce new policies that respond to our current situation. And you have to start thinking differently to adapt to that shift which is a gamechanger and will most likely remain that way for a very long time. Will you adapt or will you remain the same? In the same manner, millions of jobs have become obsolete but millions of jobs and opportunities have been created as a result of the pandemic. Disruption is an enabler, take this opportunity and create the next global disruptor.

2. Family. It is important to know what matters. Families have been torn apart but millions more have shown true resilience as they battle the pandemic. We, as the USIU-Africa community have learnt lessons that will take us through the next crisis. In times of adversity, that is when we become the best versions of ourselves.

3. Life. Expect the unexpected. This is our new reality, a different reality and what you decide to do with it is entirely up to you. In this moment, you can become what you want to be, Own it! Change it! Be it!

To the Class of 2020

You are indeed a great class, the first class to graduate virtually in our 51-year old history. Your stories will go down the history books and you have demonstrated that you can push on no matter the circumstance and I urge you to keep pushing on forward. Only you can provide a way forward in not only managing this pandemic, but by defining our new normal. You have done it before and I have no doubt it you will do it again.

I leave you with the wise words of Maya Angelou that say, “If you're always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”

Congratulations and Thank You!

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