Ambassador Barks-Ruggles Remarks for American Corner Kigali at AUCA Official Opening

Ambassador Barks-Ruggles Remarks for American Corner Kigali at AUCA Official Opening Tuesday, August 29, 2017 @ 12:00

Rector Dr. Benson, Vice Rector Dr. Claver, representatives of the Ministry of Education and the Rwanda Education Board, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to have the opportunity to officially open the American Corner Kigali at Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA). This new space is a symbol of our commitment to education in Rwanda and we are happy to share this wonderful new space with you.

The American Corner Kigali is one of three American Spaces in Rwanda and is part of a network of over 600 American Spaces worldwide.  At this American Corner, guests will be able to learn about the United States through more than 1000 books, magazines, audiobooks, games, CDs and DVDs. They will have free online access to millions of full-text articles from scholarly journals and popular magazines.  They will also be able to explore new technology such as 3D printing.

The five core programs of the American Corner are: English language programs, information about study in the United States, U.S. alumni engagement, cultural programs, and general information about the United States.

Through these programs, we hope to build and strengthen relationships between the United States and Rwanda, showcase American culture and values, promote the learning of English so that young people will be better prepared for the future, enable young people to fulfill their dreams of study in the United States, and foster real dialogue, especially with the youth of Rwanda.

One of the ways we advance English language learning is through our Fulbright and ACCESS English programs.  Each year we bring three Fulbright English Teaching Assistants and three Fulbright English Language Fellows to Rwanda.  This year, in just two weeks, we will have an English Language Fellow right here at AUCA for 10 months teaching English and leading English programming in the American Corner.  Approximately 500 youth between the ages of 13 and 20 have graduated from our English ACCESS Microscholarship program which started in 2010 and provides intensive afterschool and weekend English sessions.   We currently have 200 ACCESS students entering their second year of the program, and 200 more that will start in October. We will invite those ACCESS students throughout the year to this American Corner to enrich their learning.

One of our priorities and an increasing focus for us is to encourage more higher education cooperation in both directions.  A U.S. degree is the worldwide standard for excellence and you can feel confident that pursuing an advanced degree from one of the 1,700 graduate degree-granting U.S. institutions will help you achieve your career goals.  More and more Rwandans are taking advantage of opportunities to study in the United States.  Over the past five years, the number of Rwandan studying in the United States has almost doubled and we must do everything we can to increase those opportunities further.  We are proud to host four Rwandan Fulbright students and two Rwandan Humphrey Fellows in the United States each year.

At this Corner, students have access to resources that can help them to fulfill their dreams of studying in United States.  Here Rwandans can find university guides to help research the best schools and academic programs, as well as prepare for admission tests.  In addition the online tools available here will assist them in preparing admissions applications and doing all of that faster.

We are happy to have some of our Kigali College Club students here with us today.  Our EducationUSA advisor is working hand and hand with these students to help prepare them as they pursue higher education in the United States.  The Kigali College Club is a new program which started last year and helped eleven Rwandans successfully apply for and be admitted to universities and colleges in the United States.  This year, now with the additional resources of this American Corner, we are working toward one hundred percent acceptance for our Kigali College Club students.

Each year we have about 35-40 Rwandans participate in our various exchange programs such as the YALI Mandela Washington Fellows, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the Pan-African Youth Leadership Program, TechWomen, WiSci Camp, and Community Solutions.  Over one thousand Rwandans that have participated in these exchange programs and many of them, when they come back to Rwanda, partner with us in areas from arts and culture to science and technology.  For example, next week at our American Space library at the Embassy, our TechWomen Alumni will host a mini-tech camp using a range of innovative tools and they will soon start hosting tech camps here at AUCA.

So consider this space a resource on all things American and a place for you to better understand the United States and all of its diversity.  We hope you share your ideas with us and engage with us throughout the year whether at a book club discussion, a film screening, or an English class.

Let me conclude by thanking again all those who have made this day possible: the Rector and his terrific team; my entire Public Affairs team; Devota, our American Corner Coordinator; and our American Corner interns. Thank you!