USHG VC’s Speech at 1st Graduation

UNIVERSITY OF THE SACRED HEART GULU

Speech of the Vice Chancellor on the occasion of the first Graduation of University of the Sacred Heart Gulu.

October 2, 2021

Most Rev. John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu, our University Chancellor,
Rt. Rev. Bishop Sanctus Lino Wanok, Chairperson of Governing Council
Hon. Members of Parliament
His Worship the City Mayor, Gulu City
Resident City Commissioner and RDCs present,
LC V Chairpersons and Councillors present
Members of the Board of Trustees,
the Chair and Members of the Governing Council,
Members of the Senate,
The Regional Police Commander,
Regional Prisons Commander,
District Police Commander, Gulu City,
City Principal Education Officer, Gulu City
District Education Officers,
Vice Chancellors, Principals and Academic Officers of Tertiary Institutions
The Mayor, Bardege Layibi (Gulu West), and Councillors,
The Clergy and Religious,
Religious Leaders of other faiths and denominations,
Directors of Archdiocesan Department
Catechists,
Staff of the University: Academic, Administrative and Support Staff,
The Graduands
Our students
Media houses,
All present for today’s function both physically here and those following us on digital platforms. Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my unique privilege and honor to welcome you to USHG for our very first Graduation ceremony. Thank you all for honoring our invitation on short notice since the transition from only 20 persons allowable to 200 was made last week. We would have also wanted to invite many more but the current COVID-19 situation and the guidelines does not allow.
This is a very special day for this University: of the Sacred Heart Gulu. We acknowledge with profound gratitude the journey we have made to come to this day. We appreciate all persons who have contributed to the journey. We all build on the work of others.
Your Grace, the Chancellor, my speech will be in four parts:
a) Appreciation and recognition of contributors
b) Highlights of the journey made to reach this point
c) The journey forward: Opportunities and challenges
d) A word to our soon to be graduates.

A. Appreciation and recognition.
Our appreciation goes to the Board of Trustees under the Chairmanship of Your Grace the Chancellor who initiated and continue to support the University. You are the guarantors of the success and sustainability of the USHG and we shall continue to rely on you in living the mission and realizing the vision of the University.

We must recognize and appreciate the taskforce, which was headed by His Lordship Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki, now Bishop of Arua Diocese, who laid the conceptual foundation for the University and upon whose recommendations the Board of Trustees proceeded with the establishment of the University.

We cannot forget the core team that prepared the documentation and set up of the University Project for the formal processes that led to the eventual accreditation of the University. Some of them are still with the University

The Interim Council, chaired by Mr. Patrick Okumu-Omony played a critical role in initiating the set up of required administrative structures, systems, policies and processes. This team guided and worked with the core team towards the formalization of the University project.

We acknowledge and are grateful for the guidance and support from the NCHE through all the processes right from 2012, starting with the applications for the Letter of Interim Authority and later the Provisional License, accreditation of programs, and the continuous availability to support Higher Educational Institutions.

We appreciate the Governing Council, who wholeheartedly embraced the challenge and responsibility entrusted to it by the Board of Trustees. You have continued to steer the institution in the dynamic and changing environment. You have made it possible to reach this day.

We cannot forget to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of our partners, collaborators and supporters that have made it possible to reach this day. Locally, we want to thank all those who have contributed to the success of the University in a variety of ways including financial, socially and spiritually. We take special note of those who committed and supported the USHG under the PUSH scheme and all the different appeals that the Archbishop has made.

We gratefully acknowledge the collaboration with especially Walsh University and John Carroll University in Ohio USA, and the support of the Kroc School University of San Diego. These collaborations have supported staff and program development, staff and student interactions/ exchange visits, and community outreach among others. Thank you, President Emeritus Richard Jusseame, Professor Emeritus Dr. Laurence Bove and current President Dr. Timothy J. Collins and all the Walsh team. Thank you, Dr. Jeanne Colleran who was Interim President of John Carroll University, Former President Dr. Michael Johnson and current President Dr. Allan Miciak, Dr. Walter Simmons and all the John Carroll University team; Thank you, Dr. Patricia Marquez Associate Provost; Dean & Professor of Social Innovation at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace and Justice, University of San Diego with your team, for contributing to the attainments of this day.

This is a moment to be grateful to all who believed in and supported the University against all odds including Jen B. Schreck (RIP) after whom we have named our computer Laboratory, the President and board of GuluHelp Foundation and many others who cannot be named now.

We also acknowledge the contribution of the government of Uganda for providing the enabling environment for private universities to contribute to the significant work of educating the population. In a very special way, we appreciate the National Information Technology (NITA) – Uganda for the connection to the National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure (Fibre-optic cable) for internet connectivity.

The University Senate is profoundly appreciated for its oversight on all matters academic at the University. It is the Senate that admitted the students, approved their results and now approved them for the award of their Degrees. Thank you

Management and staff: This day is the vindication of your great commitment and the great sacrifices made in the conviction that we are making a difference. Be proud of what you have been able to achieve and know that this is just the beginning of greater success. We are grateful even to those who may have been with us only for a short time and have moved to other places.

We also appreciate our students who give relevance to the investments made by the Board of Trustees and supporters. The preparation of our students has been and continue to be supported by the many institutions and organizations that provide them opportunity for internship. To the management of all the places where our students were welcome and given opportunities for professional experience, we are very grateful.

Allow me also to mention and appreciate those who should have been part of this event but have gone ahead of us to the Lord including: Rev. Sr. Margaret Aceng who was on the Task Force; Mr. Opio – Lukone and Mrs. Sussan Omona who were on the Interim Council, Our Lecturer Edna Acayo, Ms. Mary Grace Lanyero who was our student with the graduating class, Mr. Wilson Opiyo our support staff, and the Catechists who have passed through the Catechist Formation Programs here at the University.

B. Highlights of the journey made: Achievements
When the University was licensed to operate in June 2016, we had identified eight focus areas to guide our operations and growth: infrastructure, staffing, academics, library, institutional connections, governance, research and community outreach. Significant progress has been made in these areas, today’s graduation is a great testimony to the progress made.

We have developed a physical Master plan; we are now connected to the National Fibre-optic cable backbone; our campus has electric power supply 24 hours a day, thanks to the solar installation on our main building; we have been able to undertake development (with at least 6 staff trained to Masters level under collaborative sponsorship with Walsh University, John Carroll University and University of San Diego in California).

We opened the University with only two accredited programs: Bachelor of Counselling Psychology and Bachelor of Information Systems in one Faculty: the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The first admissions were the January 2017 intake with 25 students admitted for the BCP program, 14 registered and 8 are graduating today. Our second intake was in August 2017 when we admitted a total of 38 students for the two programs, 27 of whom registered and 14 are graduating today.

We now have two Faculties: the Faculty of Management Science and Faculty of Arts and Social Science, we have seven programs accredited by the NCHE; five are bachelors while two are post graduate programs: Our current program offerings are:
• Bachelor of Counselling Psychology
• Bachelor of Information Systems,
• Bachelor of Applied Information Technology
• Bachelor of Commerce
• Bachelor of Agri-Systems Management
• PGD in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics
• PGD in Strategic Management and Leadership

These programs have been accredited for implementation in the traditional, block release, hybrid and online modes. I encourage interested applicants to reach out to the office of the Academic Registrar for more information.

We have strengthened and widened the scope of our collaborative networks, both local and international.
• We have hosted a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow, a project that contributed and led to the establishment of the USHG Center for Data Science
• We have current ongoing research project on Stigma and Disability, Understanding the Impact of COVID19 on Disabled People in South Africa and Uganda with Royal Holloway University of London, bringing together two Universities in Uganda, two Universities in South Africa and the University of Western Ontario, Canada.
• In partnership with Academics without Borders, we are working on further building the capacity of our staff in Engaging Teaching Methods to Advance Student Learning and Critical Thinking and Community Based Research Processes for Social Change.
The USHG has continued to leverage innovative opportunities for the benefit of the community. Our Community engagement and outreach programs have many people have benefitted from our Basic Computer skills training, Basic Counselling Skills Trainings – most especially for Teachers, Financial Literacy training, Peace Leadership Training, Current Procurement Strategies in Supply Chain Management, and other Community outreach activities. We have set up our Counselling Center to support individuals and groups in our communities in need of professional assistance.
The University has also continued to make its impact through the formation of the pastoral agents: the Catechists – whose ministry is an integral part of the compassionate and healing work of Christ through the Church.

C. The Journey Forward: Opportunities and Challenges
The work we have done thus far has been to establish and position USHG as a firm and credible institution in the realization of the mission of healing, growth and development of the society. We can say with certainty that the USHG is a young dependable institution with great potentials. Ours is not to impress; ours is to get things done! To drive our movement forward, the University has now identified the following areas of strategic focus:
• Infrastructure and Facilities
• Program Development
• Students’ Enrollment and Retention
• Technology and E-Learning
• Staffing
• Research
• Policy Review and Streamlining Governance
• Collaboration and Networking
• Resource Mobilization
• Community Engagement and Empowerment

These areas provide great opportunities for collaboration and support in areas that include:
• Student tuition / scholarship support:
• Staff development and empowerment:
• Physical Infrastructure development:
• Technology infrastructure improvements
• Research and
• Collaboration in outreach

The resource challenges can always be mitigated through collaborative and synergistic partnerships. We hope to count on you all for moving the University forward.

D. A word to our soon to be graduates.
Congratulations. We are proud of you. When I welcomed you, in 2017, I thanked you for choosing the USHG and embracing the opportunities for growth as pioneers. I emphasized that University education is not about acquiring information; that you could read on your own from books, newspapers, internet, etc. Rather, it was about training you how to think: connect the dots and prepare you for the future.

Your choices of topics and the depth of your research projects leave us with no doubt that we have prepared you well with the mind and heart for the community.

It is very affirming to us that all of you who are graduating are fully absorbed into the job market and most importantly are in positions that entail counselling-related work in the community, education and health sectors. Some of you even received job offers in your final phase of studies. One of you has established a community-based organization to address psychosocial challenges in Gulu. CONGRATULATIONS

You have been prepared to accompany and support individuals in our society in the challenges from which you are not excluded. As you can see, the future remains unpredictable, but you are adequately prepared for any future with the responsibility also of shaping the future for a better human society.

Be ambassadors of USHG, your alma mater; support your alma mater, and most especially, support those who may need financial support to complete their studies at the USHG.

We all look forward with greater excitement and determination as we send you, our first products out. CONGRATULATIONS.

Thank you all for listening. May God bless us all

For God and my Country.

Fr. Jino O. Mwaka PhD (Kent State), MBA (Walsh University)
Vice Chancellor,
University of the Sacred Heart Gulu