SPEECH BY THE VICE CHANCELLOR, PROF. PAUL TIYAMBE ZELEZA, DURING THE 42ND COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY OF THE UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY-AFRICA HELD ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2020.
The Chief Guest
Board of Trustees
The Chancellor, Dr. Manu Chandaria
Faculty, students, staff and alumni present
Parents and guardians,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
And the Graduating Class of 2020
It is my honour and absolute pleasure to preside over the 42nd Commencement Ceremony, one that will see you all go down in history as the first class in USIU-Africa’s 51-year history to graduate virtually. This commencement ceremony also marks the graduation of the pioneer cohort of Bachelor of Pharmacy students, which could not have come at a better time, as you now join the frontlines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The past few months have been the test of our resilience, as we learn to adjust to the extraordinary circumstances that have been occasioned by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to cause untold suffering not only across the globe, but also in our community. I would like to salute all of you for efforts towards ensuring that USIU-Africa continues to discharge its core mandate of providing quality teaching and learning, even in the face of adversity.
2020 marks my fifth year at the helm of USIU-Africa, an institution with an illustrious history, not only in Kenya, but also around the world. As the oldest private secular university in the country, we have not only weathered many adversities throughout our 51-year history, but we have also grown in stature. I have every confidence that we will not only overcome the present challenges, but we will emerge stronger, and even more secure. I attribute this confidence to the selfless dedication, professionalism, astute leadership, diligent scholarship, and the continued goodwill of each and every single stakeholder critical to the success of our institution.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If there is one thing that these past few months has taught us, it is adaptability. It gives me great pleasure to note that USIU-Africa has stayed ahead of the curve in this regard. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent closure of all learning institutions in the country as mandated by the Government, we have been able to successfully complete the Spring and Summer semesters online, which has continued into the ongoing Fall semester. This was because of our continued investment in ICT infrastructure, which enabled us to make a seamless transition into remote learning.
We have also made several advancements towards the improvement of our online curriculum, with the most notable being the approval of the Online MBA by the WASC Senior Colleges and Universities Commission (WSCUC). The program, housed at the Chandaria School of Business (CSB), will ensure that students have access to quality education, regardless of where they are around the world. The program, which is in advanced stages of approval by the Commission for University Education (CUE), will provide students with real-time virtual interaction with their instructors, as well as additional resources for out-of-class interaction among students and between students and instructors. We have also launched new courses to bolster our overall offering, including the Bachelor of Global Leadership and Governance and the Master of Science in Information Security, among others, which will be announced in due course. We will continue to hone our curriculum, so that we can have the ability to offer face to face, online and hybrid learning, to fit the needs of our students.
As we continue into the future of this new mode of learning, I wish to reassure you that now more than ever, we are putting your needs as students at the forefront. This will help us design good learning experiences, in addition to reimagining our methods of assessment. Students can revisit online course material, ask questions and get personal support, in and out-of-normal teaching hours.
This season may have been difficult, but it has not been without its high points. USIU-Africa was recently selected to be a partner of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. The partnership will provide scholarships for 1,000 high potential students over the next ten years facing financial, gender, displacement, or disability constraints. At least 70 percent of the young people who benefit from the partnership will be young women, while 25 percent will be displaced or refugee youth, and at least 10 percent will be young people living with disabilities. With this USD 63.2 million partnership, USIU-Africa joined Mastercard Foundation expanding global network of partners committed to developing a generation of African leaders who will use their knowledge and skills to lead change in their communities, and contribute to meaningful transformation across the continent.
The partnership aligns with our mission of providing an education to take you places, as it presents a chance for us to continue moulding students who will catalyze Africa’s continued advancement into a better, brighter future. By embracing the Scholars Program, we will increase the international student population from 15 percent to 20 percent which is in line with our strategy of internationalization.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We may be in an era of social distance, but big achievements, like the degrees being awarded here today, are not achieved by individuals on their own, but by people working together. I would like to acknowledge and thank those who have joined you in your celebration today- your friends and families, as well as my colleagues, all of whom have played a part in getting you here today for the celebration of this achievement.
Seneca, a Roman philosopher said that life is not about how long it is, but how good it is. Over the years, there is no doubt that some students graduated in times of extraordinary difficulty, while others have gone through relatively easier times. Today you graduate in an extraordinary time, underscored by considerable uncertainty as the country, and indeed the whole world faces its biggest crisis in years. I want to urge you not to be discouraged by these difficulties, but to stay faithful to the passion that we have inculcated into you for deepening your understanding of the present and future, and staying focused on finding ways around problems.
Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Class of 2020 for being pioneers, as the first class in our University’s history to graduate virtually, and for having the fortitude to persevere and complete your studies in such a trying time.
I also extend my hearty congratulations to our students from the School of Pharmacy and Health Science, who are the first cohort of students to graduate with Bachelor of Pharmacy degrees from USIU-Africa. Just like you have been trailblazers in the University’s history, we hope that with the knowledge and skills you have gathered at USIU-Africa, you will continue charting new paths during this critical time, as we work towards finding a solution to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Hongera and Asanteni Sana!