Carnegie Mellon University
June 08, 2017

CMU-Africa Graduates 100th Student

By Heidi Opdyke

2017 Graduation Ceremony

Carnegie Mellon University Africa celebrated graduation in Kigali, Rwanda on June 6.

Carnegie Mellon University Africa hosted its fourth graduation ceremony June 6 in Kigali, Rwanda, for 33 students from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda who earned master's degrees in electrical and computer engineering and information and communication technology.

With this year's class CMU-Africa reached a milestone of 100 graduates. They join more than 100,000 Carnegie Mellon alumni worldwide.

College of Engineering Dean James H. Garrett Jr. shared some advice with the graduates. He said he had been involved in graduations since 1982 as a CMU student, parent, faculty member, department head and dean.

"Don't be afraid to stretch beyond your comfort zone to participate in the transformation underway throughout this continent," Garrett said during the ceremony. "Live in the present. Be in the moment. The opportunity in Africa is now."

Hamadoun Touré, executive director of Smart Africa Secretariat, was this year's graduation speaker. The Smart Africa Secretariat recently renewed its partnership with CMU-Africa with a three-year commitment to support 30 students through the Smart Africa Scholarship Fund. The fund aims to build information and communication technology (ICT) capacity to catalyze Africa's economic development. This year's class included the first cohort of Smart Africa scholars.

"When I look at you I see success and hope for the future of Africa," Touré said. "At Smart Africa, we believe in the young innovators and we want to give them the opportunity to dream big, invent and innovate. We believe there is talent in each and every one of the students in our program, and that they will make us proud when competing on the world stage."

Student speaker Joan Rachel Nkiriki said members of the class shared many personal and professional memories.

Image of student speaker Joan Rachel Nkiriki
Student speaker Joan Rachel Nkiriki

"We have witnessed transformations within ourselves and our peers," she said, "CMU has taught me, you don't need a title, it's not a prerequisite to be a leader."

Nkiriki earned a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering. A Smart Africa Scholar, Nkiriki is a member of Girls in ICT, an organization in Rwanda that helps attract and retain women in STEM. She has actively served in a number of CMU-Africa student clubs, most recently as the business strategist for the Data Science Club. In this role, she helped facilitate industry connections and project collaborations.

"If we are to live up to the mission of CMU-Africa: to have a transformative impact on society and to advance human potential through the application of technology, we are going to have to champion our visions through relentless perseverance," Nkiriki said.