The 8th annual Carnegie Mellon University Africa graduation ceremony took place on Sunday, May 23. To celebrate the graduates with the recognition they deserve, while observing COVID-19 protocols, the diploma awarding ceremony was live-streamed and conducted in hybrid mode. This year’s graduating class was composed of 66 graduates from 12 different countries in Africa. 47 completed their Master of Science in Information Technology and 19 completed their Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering. The hybrid ceremony was moderated by CMU-Africa Executive Director Gbemi Disu, and the on-campus event was attended by CMU-Africa Director Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, CMU-Africa faculty and staff, 2021’s student award winners, and student speaker, Ozioma Paul. With pre-recorded messages from the Minister of Education, Hon. Dr. Valentine Uwamariya, Dean of the College of Engineering William H. Sanders, and CEO of Irembo and keynote speaker, Faith Keza.
In his welcome remarks, Vijayakumar Bhagavatula noted, “Class of 2021, you’re a special group. You had to deal with the challenges of meeting CMU-Africa’s rigorous academic requirements remotely. Kudos to your ability to adapt to meet these challenges; your tenacity has paid off. Your journey at CMU-Africa was also enabled by other supporting partners. First of all, this campus wouldn’t be here, but for the vision of the Government of Rwanda to bring Carnegie Mellon University to Kigali to educate the next generation of African technology leaders in Africa. Since 2016, Mastercard Foundation has been a great supporter through the Mastercard Foundation scholars program and you have received support from other organizations that raised funds from several other individuals who believed in you all.”
Dean of the College of Engineering, William H. Sanders encouraged the graduating class, emphasizing that they are the next generation of leaders, innovators and builders who will affect change and improve quality of life with talent and expertise: “You have persevered in advancing your education through the rigors of a Carnegie Mellon education and have done so in the face of unexpected challenges. As we begin to emerge from a truly unprecedented year, from a pandemic that’s swept the globe, your bright light will have a new and unique opportunity to shine.”
What we do for a living is certainly a large part of our identity, but what will carry us is building a resilient character and an authentic identity.Faith Keza, CEO, Irembo
Keynote speaker, Faith Keza, shared her insight about knowing who you are and how you want to spend your life. “Who we are isn’t about what we do for a living. What we do for a living is certainly a large part of our identity, but what will carry us is building a resilient character and an authentic identity. We should examine and develop our characters as much as we develop our skills. I encourage you all to build or contribute to teams that are purpose-driven. You are all uniquely gifted, talented, and privileged to decide today to live a life that feels true to you and also serves others. May your hearts be in your work.”
The Class of 2021 is indeed composed of individuals that are gifted, driven, and service-oriented. This year’s Student Awards were presented by visiting professor Saranth Tannakkoon and instructor Moise Busogi. Students who received the Lakshmi Subramanian Student Excellence Awards: Segla Boladji Trinite Adjibi Vinny (MSIT) along with Abrham Gebreselasie (MSECE) and Clare-Joyce Ngoran (MSECE). Agripinna Mwangi, an MSECE graduate, received the Jeremiah N. Mpagazehe Rising Researcher Award. Speaking on behalf of the Class of 2021, student speaker Ozioma Paul acknowledged the importance of community in achieving a milestone like graduating from CMU-Africa: “They say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’: it takes more than one person—it is a collaborative effort. Indeed, it has taken a village for me and every other Tartan graduating today.” Paul appreciated the CMU-Africa staff and faculty members for going above and beyond, and thanked “everyone who believed in us and sponsored us. Thank you to the Mastercard Foundation, Smart Africa, MINDS, and other sponsors for making our journey a reality. Thank you for being a part of the village that has brought us here. Many of us wouldn’t be able to afford this world class education but for you all, we are grateful.”
The Guest of Honor, Minister of Education, Dr. Valentine Uwamariya recognized both the graduates and the CMU-Africa community for making it through a particularly challenging year and emphasized how crucial CMU-Africa is to the development of the continent: “I take the opportunity to thank CMU-Africa for their flexibility and innovation in finding solutions to ensure the success of CMU-Africa’s students during this difficult time. The strategic partnership with CMU-Africa is one of the key strategies to help capacity building in science and technology in support of Rwanda’s social and economic growth. To the graduating class, the networks you have forged during your time at CMU-Africa are important. You're graduating from a world class institution as future leaders, I encourage all of you to follow in the footsteps of your predecessors in contributing to the development of Rwanda and the continent.”