When Akilah opened its doors in 2010, there was one diploma program with a class of 50 students sharing two classrooms. This close-knit community allowed us to create a strong student culture, characterized by an amazing student experience.
Fast forward 11 years — we now have hundreds of students and have proudly preserved the unique experience that each individual has when they walk through our doors.
Akilah alum, Allen Ingabire, recently interviewed two of our team members who help bring this experience to life: Stephanie Kanyandekwe, Senior Recruitment and Admission Coordinator, and Kevin Mbogo, Dean of Students. Catch up on the full conversation on IGTV, or read highlights below.
Allen: Stephanie, what is the recruitment process like if someone wants to become a Davis College or Akilah student?
Stephanie: Firstly, it’s a very simple application that is done online via our website. All applicants from Rwanda must have a successful secondary school national exam result with two principal passes, while foreigners just bring their documents and we can look for equivalence from the REB (Rwanda Education Board). Secondly, all our applicants must sit for an English assessment and an interview. Those steps are very simple too and both can be done online from your laptop or your phone. Once applicants pass the assessment and interview, then they are welcomed to become students.
Allen: As part of the Recruitment & Admissions Team, how do you support applicants?
Stephanie: I, along with my amazing team, support our applicants everyday by giving them information about the application process. Some high school students don’t have the means to submit their application easily online, so we are there to help them do it and facilitate the process. Also, when it comes to the assessment, not everybody understands what it is about, so we really try our best to give all the necessary information to help them prepare. We are always busy taking calls from everywhere; not only in Rwanda, we also have people calling from places like Uganda and Kenya. We are there to support people from when they apply until they become a student and start their classes.
Allen: Why should high school graduates or anyone who wants to get a higher education experience apply to Davis College or Akilah? From your perspective, why do you think this is the best place for applicants to come?
Stephanie: There are so many reasons why someone should join Davis College and Akilah, but I will just name a few! Firstly, we provide market relevant skills that are much needed out there. What that means is our curriculum is developed to ensure that what we teach is based on feedback from our partners in the private sector. And on top of what you learn in class, you also gain soft skills that the private sector needs. So, by the time students from Davis College and Akilah graduate, it’s fairly easy for them to get a job or an internship, or to start their own businesses. A lot of our graduates today have good jobs or have their own businesses where they were able to give jobs to other people.
Secondly, our employment rate after graduation is very high. Before graduating, it is mandatory for students to do an internship which is in-line with what they have studied. And most of the time our students are connected to really good companies who are the partners we work with to help develop our curriculum and provide skills to students that are really needed in the workplace. For instance, when our students study Hospitality and Tourism Management, it’s not just about teaching them theory — they also gain practical and soft skills, because that’s what is needed on the job. Also, when our students go for interviews, it’s about how they present themselves and the soft skills that they have which helps them to get a job.
Allen: Thanks, Stephanie. Before I invite Kevin to join, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Stephanie: I would like to encourage everybody to apply — please spread the word among your networks, talk to your young brothers, young sisters, your neighbors, your friends. We can’t wait to welcome you!
Allen: Thanks, Stephanie — and welcome, Kevin! As the Dean of Students, can you explain to us what the Student Affairs Department does at Davis College and Akilah?
Kevin: First, I just want to tell you the most important point — we make life at Davis College and Akilah FUN. Let me break that down — we have a few things that we do to make sure our students enjoy life here outside of the classroom. The Department of Student Affairs tries to ensure that our students really sharpen their leadership skills, so we coordinate the Student Guild and Representatives. We want to hear students’ voices, whether they are elected or not, so they can build their leadership skills. We also try to encourage students to exercise their creativity. We want to see people coming up with cool stuff, showing their talents, singing for us, acting, just doing something and bringing their creativity to us.
The other thing we do is helping people grow. Really, education can’t make sense if someone does not grow and develop. We want people to grow from the villager they are into a global citizen. We want people to come here if they have a dream, so we can help them achieve it.
We also try to help our students to have an ability to appreciate life. I come from a very deep village and one of the things that I value is the ability to appreciate life — not only for me as a worker, but also for our students. When I came to work at Davis College and Akilah, I started having that ability to appreciate life. So, we try to help people create a holistic view beyond academics.
Allen: How do you also support our alumnae?
Kevin: The Department of Student Affairs knows that the relationship with our students does not end with graduation — we love you beyond the graduation! And so we have very robust and dynamic plans for our alumnae, such as seasonal and regular gatherings. We are particularly interested in where our alumnae go, because we like to show off their achievements. We are so proud — sometimes we even have to book appointments to meet them because our people have become so important. In our search for what our alumnae are doing, we never stop crossing continents — people are in Africa and in many other continents. And the other thing we do for our alumnae is to point them in the best direction to look for job opportunities. You never stop belonging to Davis College and Akilah, you just begin another chapter with us when you graduate.
Allen: How does your department work with students online?
Kevin: Part of academic pillars is 21st Century skills and you cannot be a 21st Century institution without working online. I believe we are one of the very few institutions who have taken that very seriously. When the lockdown started last year, we were the only institution who decided to send internet packages to our students to keep them studying online.
Also, we know that education is not just centered on books. Whenever we see a student arriving at school each morning, that student has left a whole world behind them. Sometimes students are stressed and they cannot learn in that shape, so our team provides psycho-social support. This happens in-person when we are on campus, but when we are not on campus there is a booking system and students can reach us anytime. We don’t want students to get stressed alone, and so we listen to them, understand their challenges, and counsel them as best we can so that they can focus on their study. We also have health and wellness initiatives, conferences, and different games sometimes. And we engage students through the clubs and organizations, which can still operate online with our team’s support and coordination.
Allen: What is it like now having both men and women on campus, since Davis College was launched last year?
Kevin: Akilah was initially founded to empower women, but we know that we cannot fully empower women without also uplifting men. We knew it was time for our brothers to join and see what their sisters have been doing. And yes, we have an awesome society! There is something special that has happened since our men come in — I have seen so much energy. I have been listening to our great faculty teaching and every time they come from class, they are saying that there are new perspectives coming through and a renewed competitive spirit; we are creating this energy and I love that. So, I feel good that we have men and women around, and we have a lot of fun.