X

SNHU-Kepler Alumna Shares Her Story at First Sandbox Speaker Series

Tujiza Uwituze shareing her story to an audience at the first Sandbox Speaker Series

Since 2013, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has been working in Rwanda, in collaboration with Kepler and the IKEA Foundation, to deliver online, competency-based, U.S.-accredited degrees to Rwandan students and refugees through SNHU's College for America (CfA) program.

Over three years, CfA has supported 279 students in both campuses - Kigali and Kiziba - and has awarded 184 associate degrees and 24 bachelor's degrees.

SNHU is proud to be a part of this transformative work, and had a unique opportunity to bring a recent graduate to New Hampshire to share her story.

Tujiza Uwituze, a 25-year old SNHU-Kepler alumna, joined four representatives from the University and Kepler on October 3, 2016, at Sandbox ColLABorative's first Sandbox Speaker Series: University Innovation in Rwanda.

Throughout her life, Uwituze always envisioned herself becoming a "big, important person in the world," and dreamed of receiving a college education. However, like many of her peers, she faced challenges along the way.

Originally from Rwanda, Uwituze spent 13 years living as a refugee in two neighboring countries: Kenya and Tanzania. She has had to overcome displacement, cultural limitations and depleted resources, among other challenges, and compared her life to the ever-changing colors of New Hampshire's foliage.

"In Rwanda, it's summer all year long; the leaves are green, throughout. Like the leaves here [in NH] - you can see they change colors all the time - my life has changed differently, ups and downs," said Uwituze.

After spending more than a decade as a refugee, Uwituze returned to Rwanda in 2007 to begin high school. Like many of her classmates, she was expected to marry after graduation, but she was determined to earn her degree. Living in a community that favors men over women, however, made her goal much more difficult to accomplish. In addition, university opportunities are difficult to come by in Rwanda, and scholarships are even more challenging to secure; according to Uwituze, only 9% of women graduate from college in Rwanda.

"I knew that there was so many challenges that would stop me from reaching my goals, but I also knew that my education would be a way through there - and not any education, an international, high-level education," Uwituze said.

After repeatedly being turned down, she finally received two scholarships: a government scholarship to study engineering and a scholarship to study at Kepler. Without hesitation, she accepted the scholarship from Kepler, and began her journey to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from SNHU. Uwituze was one out of 50 students in Kepler's first cohort in Kigali.

During her presentation, she explained that learning in the local universities is much different than in U.S. programs. Unlike at Kepler, plagiarism is overlooked in local programs. Uwituze joked that students can earn their degree with ease; they can pass exams and even write a book by plagiarizing.

Another difference she mentioned was the use of collaboration. In Rwanda, collaborating - especially with adults - is not a cultural norm, and was a new experience for her.

She highlighted that in local universities you learn alone, but at Kepler, you have to collaborate.

Through true perseverance and grit, Uwituze earned her degree in March 2016. She now works to educate others in the community as an academic programs associate and course facilitator at Kepler.

Due to her new role, she says she's now able to be independent. She pays her own rent, lives with her adult friends, and most importantly, can afford to support her family.

"I am living the Rwandan dream, and all of this is thanks to Southern New Hampshire [University], and the degree I know that I am going to use a lot," said Uwituze.

With enthusiasm, she told the audience that she is a proud SNHU alum, and that although she's from another country she, too, can relate to N.H.'s official state emblem: "Live Free or Die."

"It's quite fascinating that even though I've lived in different circumstances, and I've been through many changes, that's my motto; I've always believed in that," she said.

Melanie Plourde '16 is a communications coordinator at Southern New Hampshire University.

Community

Explore more content like this article

Kiki Berk

Philosophy Professor Dr. Kiki Berk: A Faculty Q&A

January 17, 2020

Dr. Kiki Berk has spent her career studying philosophy and traveling the world presenting at academic conferences. We asked the associate professor of philosophy at SNHU to share her thoughts on teaching, the importance of education and more as part of our Faculty Spotlight series.

Dawn Reno Langley

MFA Instructor Dr. Dawn Reno Langley: A Q&A

January 10, 2020

After a career spent publishing articles, fiction, nonfiction and poetry pieces, Dr. Dawn Reno Langley now teaches in SNHU's MFA program helping budding writers achieve their dreams. We asked her for her thoughts on teaching, the importance of education and more for SNHU's Faculty Spotlight Series.

Jim Naro

MBA Alumnus Helped in Deployment of the Internet, Now Teaches Sales

January 09, 2020

Though Jim Naro '85MBA knew there was something special happening in technology, he had no idea his MBA would lead him to a team that would be instrumental in the deployment of the internet.

Explore Programs