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Alumni Thrive in Their Communities

Published: Wednesday, 10 Jan 2018
Author: The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program
Department: Office of the Dean

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program staff  Dr. Chinwe Effiong, Assistant Dean, and Laura Wise, Career Development Manager, were privileged to meet with two alumni who have returned to Africa to continue their professional journeys and give back to their communities.

Based in Rwanda, both Regis Nisengwe (2016, master's of community sustainability) and Vincent Karenzi (2017, bachelor's of agribusiness management) have found meaningful work that addresses issues currently faced by their country.

Karenzi is currently working with Rwanda Trading Company as a sourcing associate. This position involves special projects such as engaging with smallholder farmers and supporting community programs, including building a primary school.

Nisengwe has also expanded his expertise while working with smallholder farmers through an international organization, and has been chosen as a national consultant to examine the value of Rwanda's natural resources. His research primarily concerns the food industry, but also looks closely at how proposed development projects might affect water, land, air, and forests. Nisengwe's next project will also focus on the field of natural resources and the environment. Additionally, Nisengwe prioritizes youth empowerment and has established an organization that promotes and supports efforts to create jobs for youth and protect the environment.

"Returning home has been good so far," Nisengwe said, as he did not expect to secure a job before graduating. Nisengwe shared that his role as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar helped him to find work, especially because of the program's recommendations and his experience during his required internship. Nisengwe described the Rwandan employment landscape as competitive, and also identified ways in which the Scholars Program was helpful to him, such as the Leadership Academy for African Development. He observed that prospective employers found it attractive that he completed advanced leadership training during his time at MSU.

Karenzi echoed Nisengwe's sentiment that returning to the workforce in Rwanda has been a positive experience. In addition, Karenzi said "[the process] starts slow—like when you are doing an internship. Especially at your first job." He found most employment opportunities to be seasonal or project-based, and advised that "it is important to be proactive".

Providing additional advice to fellow Scholars, Nisengwe urged them to "start gathering recommendations early" and to apply "way in advance" for international organizations or development work, especially because industries "want to build a relationship before they make a decision." Nisengwe emphasized that building a network is very important, and that the Scholars should keep their network informed of the work they're involved in.

Karenzi encouraged Scholars to take less credits in their final year if possible, and to apply for any positions that share an interest in their goals. Karenzi believes that giving back to the community is of utmost importance, and he hopes that Scholars will "be brave" and "take risks".