USAP Fire Rekindled! @ Bryn Mawr College: Recap

USAP Forum 2015 Executive Recap
Tsitsi Jaji: Professor of African and Diaspora Literatures
Tsitsi Masiyiwa: Founder and Executive Chairperson of the Higherlife Foundation (HLF)
Ronald Mutasa: World Bank
Elinor Burkett and Dennis Gaboury
Professional Interest Groups
USAP Soccer Grand Champions Cup
Formal Dinner and Talent Show
Memorial for our sisters: Nancy and Morlene
Esau J. Mavindidze: President of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Network North America (ZDNNA)
Skype with Rebecca Ziegler-Mano, Networking event and Closing remarks

USAP Forum 2015 at Bryn Mawr CollegeSome of the participants and guests at the USAP Forum 2015 held at Bryn Mawr College gather for a photo.

USAP Forum 2015 Summary

USAP Forum 2015 RecapThe USAP Forum 2015 took place at Bryn Mawr College, PA from June 19 to 21, 2015. Over 60 people attended the forum and the countries that were represented were Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, USA and Malawi. We had admissions officers, current USAP undergraduates, USAP professionals and non USAP students in attendance. This year's theme was "Rekindling the Fire," a metaphor for the energy and spirit of giving back to the different communities we come from, that we ultimately hope to better and empower. The key lessons learned from the forum were that giving back should not only be in monetary form but that we can also use the skills that we have to give back to our communities. We also need to organize ourselves and build an influential network as well as leverage our presence in many sectors to help the younger generation of USAP students. Keeping in mind our experiences before being part of the USAP family, being proactive and modelling our goals with our communities at heart are the key ways for us to positively impact our various communities and see the change we want. We were all reminded of the importance of this family and the huge role USAP had played in the realization of our dreams.

The Forum was opened up by a welcome address from Kimberly Cassidy, the President of Bryn Mawr College on Saturday morning. She shared her experiences with the USAP students she has met over the years.

Dr. Tsitsi Jaji

Tsitsi JajiDr Jaji tapped into her undergraduate experiences as an international student from Zimbabwe to inspire current USAP students. She talked about issues concerning international students in the early years of college such as culture shock, racial tension, financial security, career decisions and life after college.
She encouraged USAP students to seek out guidance or to network with professors that they can trust and build student-professor relationships. She gave advice on how to and how not to engage with faculty.Having been in both roles herself, Dr Jaji understands the importance of engaging professors both inside and outside academic settings in intellectually stimulating ways. "Ask intelligent questions", she said.

Engaging with professors worked well for Dr Jaji during her graduate school as she gave an example of how simple conversations helped her find competitive scholarships. Now as a professor herself, she acknowledges the mutual benefits of engaging professors.

To some, life after graduation can seem to be unproductive in the first few years. Dr Tsitsi encouraged USAP students not to lose focus when their career goals do not go as planned. She shared with us her experiences after graduating and struggle figuring out what she will do with her career for a while. In addition, she encouraged USAP students with mental illness to seek help and counseling.

Mrs Tsitsi Masiyiwa

Tsitsi MasiyiwaMrs Masiyiwa is currently involved in multiple philanthropic activities in Zimbabwe namely, Ruzivo, Muzinda Hub and various orphanages. She outlined the challenges facing Africa as well as opportunities and manageable calls to action. She used her involvements to encourage USAP students to either go back or give back to their respective countries.

Through visual aids and extensive statistics, she demonstrated how much of Africa's brightest minds leave the continent to go to western countries whilst Africa suffers from multiple economic challenges.

According the data and statistics, educating women was shown to significantly reduce infant mortality. As a result, education is one of the recurring themes in her current work through Higher Life foundation, Ruzivo and Muzinda. At Higher Life foundation, underprivileged youth and orphans get an opportunity to pursue various academic careers and improve their lives. Ruzivo is an online mobile learning platform that gives thousands of children access to existing and improved learning material. Muzinda is an entrepreneurship and innovation hub that seeks to train computer program to Zimbabwean youths.

Mr Ronald Mutasa

Ronald MutasaMr Mutasa talked on the importance of networking with peers. He gave personal examples of how he and his colleagues landed competitive jobs through networking.

In line with the theme of 'Rekindling the fire', Mr Mutasa narrated a story of how a group of Zimbabwean professionals maintained a strong professional network through which members made impact in Zimbabwe. Some of the practical projects Mr Mutasa's professional network has done is to hold regular virtual meetings to talk about general issues and to raise funds for purchasing medical equipment for a clinic in Harare. The idea of maintaining a strong professional network intellectually challenged Forum attendees as evidenced by occasional references to Mr Mutasa's talk in the professional interest group meetings.

In conclusion, Mr Mutasa emphasized the need to strategically plan and package one's achievements and experience so that one can be different from competitors. 'Always look at your competition...' he said and substantiating his argument with his experience applying and interviewing at his current job.

Elinor Burkett and Dennis Gaboury

Elinor and Dennis, the founders Zimkids Orphan Trust, a comprehensive program for orphans in Pumula North, Zimbabwe, discussed with the group the cultural challenges to working with Zimbabwean girls in orphanages.

Professional Interest Groups

USAP Forum 2015 Special Interest Groups

There were a total of 4 professional interest groups led by USAP professionals: Arts and Public Service facilitated by Chiedza Mufunde, Biomedical Sciences led by Amanda Valeta Magara and Emmanuel Magara, Technology and Engineering led by Jonah Kadoko and Business/Finance facilitated by David Tswamuno. These interest groups were a platform for students and professionals to engage in discussions, exchange ideas and brainstorm ways in which to give back to our respective communities using our educational and professional specialties. The key questions that were discusses were how to leverage ourselves as USAP students to be in positions of giving back and how we can give back to our communities or home countries.

USAP Soccer Grand Champions Cup

USAP Forum 2015 Soccer

The professional interest groups were followed by a co-ed soccer match. The graduate team which was composed of recent college graduates played against the undergraduate team. In the first-half, both teams equalized at 6-6.

Formal Dinner and Talent Show

USAP Forum 2015 Talent show

Attendees ate and socialized at the formal dinner and a toast was made by Anywhere Sikochi to the #USAPForum2015. After dinner and dessert, there was a fashion show and parade of outfits from House of Chihera, founded by Senzeni Mpofu. The talent/no talent show came after the fashion show and there were wonderful performances from the attendees.

Sunday June 21st: Memorial for our sisters: Nancy and Morlene

Nancy Tinoza

The memorial session was the most touching moment during the forum. Friends and colleagues shared loving memories of Nancy (above) and Morlene. There were three major lessons that were shared as well.

  1. USAP students are encouraged to join life insurance to help their families in times they cannot be there for them. There policies that cost as low as $15/month with the possibility that employers can subsidize some of the cost.
  2. USAPers should learn to help each other in practical ways in times of need such as what happened. Although Facebook may facilitate information sharing, it is worth a lot more to be there in person.
  3. USAPers were encouraged to treat each other with respect/to be nice to another for one never knows the last time you will see one another.

Mr Esau Mavindidze

Esau J. MavindidzeMr Mavindidze introduced his organization, Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Program. The main objective of the organization is to help bridge the gap between diaspora and the Zimbabwean government.

Zimbabwean Diaspora Network seeks to encourage networking among Zimbabwean professionals in the US and Canada. The organization is still in the early stages. In the future, he hopes to have partnerships with USAP. He encouraged USAPers from other countries to try such a networking initiative or at least look for existing networks. He also expressed views of other established families in the light of passing of Nancy and Morlene. He encouraged us to have stronger networks to support each other at all times.

Skype with Rebecca Ziegler-Mano, Networking event and Closing remarks

Rebecca Z. ManoFollowing the speech by Mr Mavindize, the group Skyped with USAP founder Rebecca Zeigler-Mano, who emphasized the importance of our annual forum, networking and giving back. The final activity for the forum was the formal networking event which marked the end of the 2015 USAP forum. Tendai Mudyiwa, the MC and Getrude Makurumidze, the 2015 USAP forum student coordinator gave the closing remarks.