CMU-Rwanda Graduates First Class
Dean Jim Garrett on Impacting East Africa
[l-r] Esther Kunda, Andrew Kinai, Alain Shema, Merab Twahirwa
Merab Twahirwa (E'14) and three of her classmates from the inaugural class at Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda completed the coursework for their master's degree in information technology in Pittsburgh.
Twahirwa and 21 others graduated from CMU in Rwanda's Master of Science in Information Technology program on July 24.
While they were in the city, they paid homage to the first-of-its-kind program in Africa via one of CMU's most popular traditions — painting the Fence.
"We wanted to paint Carnegie Mellon in Rwanda and the link to our website on the Fence so that more people can learn about CMU's presence in Rwanda," said Twahirwa, who was the student speaker for the celebration.
"Rwanda is an exciting place to know, and Africa is growing fast. IBM, Phillips and GE are already setting up offices there," she said. "I think people should know what opportunities there are at CMU in Rwanda."
Twahirwa said she felt the same CMU spirit of innovation and work ethic in Pittsburgh that she had come to know in Rwanda. It made her feel at home.
"We are very happy that four of our first graduates were able to complete their program in Pittsburgh," said Bruce Krogh, director of CMU in Rwanda and professor of electrical and computer engineering. "They got to take advantage of the wealth of courses offered there, and they helped promote awareness of the unique opportunities our students have in Rwanda to be educated in the context of the explosion of technology and innovation happening in Africa today."
Michel Bézy, associate director of CMU in Rwanda and a distinguished service professor of engineering and public policy, said the kind of interaction that the students have at CMU in Rwanda is special.
"We feel very good about the quality of the education we deliver at CMU in Rwanda," Bézy said. "Our students get the opportunity to apply what they learn inside local companies, analyzing their markets and providing advice on strategic use of digital information in enterprises. Then, they do an internship at a local company in Africa. And finally, they work together in teams of three or four and solve a practicum submitted by the industry. We keep the bar very high. We push them to their limits to show them what they can do."
Twahirwa agreed, noting that faculty members are helpful in many ways.
"Our faculty members understand that Rwandan students have different challenges as a result of their background, and they show you that you can achieve much more than you might think," Twahirwa said.
Twahirwa arrived in Pittsburgh for her final semester of the two-year program with classmates Alain Shema (E'14), Esther Kunda (E'14) and Andrew Kinai (E'14).
"Enrolling in the program was a risk, but it has paid off," Kinai said. "The opportunity came at the right time for me."
"I always tell people, if you can come to CMU in Rwanda, it's a big opportunity. The way the courses are structured, it's relevant in terms of where we are in Africa today," Kinai said.
From her CMU education, Twahirwa said she gained a solid understanding of technology, business, innovation and the sustainability of those innovations, and how to scale them and create jobs for Africans.
"I love the culture of Africa. It might be a challenge for some people because there are many languages there, but it's exciting to me. People are very welcoming, and when you bring innovation that matters to them, they are willing to accept it," she said.