Serving the student body and beyond

Morgan Kistler

Jul 27, 2023

From Rwanda, Seth Abayo (MSIT '23) pursued his undergraduate degree in computer/information technology at Adventist University of Central Africa. While he was there, a lecturer who frequently talked about Carnegie Mellon University Africa piqued his interest in the university. Upon reviewing the courses, degrees, and programs offered, Seth realized that the school matched many of his ambitions.

"Before joining CMU, I was working as a software engineer," Seth explains. "But I kind of wanted something different from software engineering, which was machine learning. So, I had in my mind, how can I combine the skills from software engineering and machine learning to be able to see how we can build tangible products?"

Seth was able to bridge these academic interests with the support of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at CMU-Africa. From conducting research in information security, natural language processing, and neural networks, he has been able to dabble in a wide variety of topic areas throughout his time in the graduate program.

This semester, Seth has taken his studying to CMU’s Pittsburgh campus. To finish his degree, he’s been focusing on improving his software engineering skills by taking a variety of web development, patent licensing, and infrastructure classes. And while the academic rigor has been comparable to CMU-Africa, Seth has noticed one glaring difference between the locations: the weather.

"When we landed, I was like, 'What is this? Wow!'" Seth remarks. "This was my first time experiencing weather less than 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). But the good news is, I’ve gotten used to it."

student standing on a bridge

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Mastercard Foundation Scholar: Seth Abayo (MSIT ’23)

From ice skating and skiing to seeing snow for the first time, Seth has been staying busy outside of his schoolwork—something he is no stranger to. Being the president of the Student Guild at CMU-Africa, Seth dedicates a large portion of his time outside of his coursework to advocating for the student body. He has largely focused his efforts on improving the student experience by helping students cope with stress and promoting work-life balance through hosting a variety of activities.

"We went to different areas outside Kigali to visit," Seth says. "It was a good experience being with the students and enjoying the journey but also being on the other side, speaking for them and making sure their voices are being heard."

Beyond his CMU community, Seth has contributed to a variety of projects with other Mastercard Foundation Scholars, including giving students with disabilities necessary resources and renovating a house for a genocide survivor. All these projects have allowed Seth to serve the community in impactful ways, an activity he greatly enjoys.

"As a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, I'm able to not just study—though it's my first priority—but also I can impact my community," Seth says. "Overall, I can say that being a Mastercard Foundation Scholar at CMU has been a life-changing journey."