CMU-Rwanda To Graduate First Class-Faculty & Staff News - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, June 13, 2014

CMU-Rwanda To Graduate First Class

Rwanda fenceMerab Twahirwa (E’14) and three of her classmates from the inaugural class at Carnegie Mellon in Rwanda were given the opportunity to complete the coursework for their master’s degree in information technology in Pittsburgh.

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,” Twahirwa said. “Rwanda is an exciting place to know, and Africa is growing fast. IBM, Phillips and GE are already setting up offices there. I think people should know what opportunities there are at CMU in Rwanda.”

Twahirwa and 21 others will graduate from CMU in Rwanda’s Master of Science in Information Technology program on July 24.

Accustomed to serving the Rwandan community, Twahirwa was thrilled to participate in CMU’s 1000Plus day of community service by helping to plant trees on Pittsburgh’s riverfront.

“Back home in Rwanda, on the last Saturday of every month, people do community work just like this. So it was exciting to do something similar in Pittsburgh,” she said.

She 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.

“I worked just as hard at CMU in Rwanda, so I didn’t think classes in Pittsburgh were too much work and I didn’t feel lost or out of place,” Twahirwa said. “I think it was a really good idea for CMU to come to Rwanda because they are developing the 
capacity of people in Africa to solve their own problems.”

Bruce Krogh, director of CMU in Rwanda and professor of electrical and computer engineering, said, “We are very happy that four of our first graduates were able to complete their program in Pittsburgh. 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. It has been worth it. It was something new, so you didn’t know if it would work out, but the opportunity came at the right time for me,” said Kinai, who is now interviewing for jobs.

“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.

By: Kelly Solman, ksolman@andrew.cmu.edu

Students Esther Kunda, Andrew Kinai, Alain Shema and Merab Twahirwa (l-r) are among the first 22 graduates of CMU in Rwanda. While completing their master’s degrees on the Pittsburgh campus they demonstrated their shcool pride with a university tradition — painting the Fence.