A Library at United States International University-Africa in this photo taken on April 20,2016. PHOTO| EVANS HABIL
- United States International University is better than you think for a lot less than you would expect. At a time when middle class families are watching every cent, it offers very good value for money.
- Part of the savings were achieved through technology, according to my guide. Online portals to organise student university life save the need for reference desks. Putting resources in the cloud requires less people in meat space.
It is strange that the Kenyan university with the highest percentage of foreign students has the most relaxed and grown-up atmosphere towards security.The Administration building in USIU is the least imposing I have ever come across.
It is an old house retrofitted as an office. It has few pretensions and looks like a small NGO’s office in an estate in Westlands. It is always a good sign when the administration buildings are not the centrepiece of a university.
And no, the doors are not manned by officious guards ready to wand you and demand to see identification -students freely walk in or out.
It was strange that the Kenyan university with the highest percentage of foreign students has the most relaxed atmosphere and grown-up attitude towards security.
Kenyan universities are beset by paranoia, and are ratcheting up their security. The jackboots have been bussed in, the metal scanners are fixed at the door and IDs must be flashed every five minutes. The daily flood of students at University of Nairobi has been dammed to make everyone empty out their pockets before going into any building.
At a time of constant vigilance, it is nice to see that a university chooses not to subject its students to endless screenings after the gate.
United States International University is better than you think for a lot less than you would expect. At a time when middle class families are watching every cent, it offers very good value for money.
Part of the savings were achieved through technology, according to my guide. Online portals to organise student university life save the need for reference desks. Putting resources in the cloud requires less people in meat space.
MEMO FROM GREENPEACE?
USIU clearly got the memo from Greenpeace. “Sustainability” announces itself at every turn. All the new buildings come custom fitted with a skylight. Natural lighting is a big thing over there. Solar panels are a must. The buildings are designed to have the ecological footprint of a child. Every building you walk through seems to have been built around a clump of trees.
An old study found that cities with fewer trees have more aggressive inhabitants. USIU took this to heart.
There seems to be a directive to incorporate trees around the buildings. They build round them I am told. The school’s management is keen to quell architects liking of pouring concrete over all nooks and crannies. The windows are large, to let the daylight in. From the oldest building to the newest, a designer with a green thumb has a green light.
Ethical living is important when there are so many nationalities involved.
And there are many nationalities; from Nigeria to Norway, according to my guide. Fifteen per cent of the population is foreign.
They now even have a proper Science department. They started the pharmacy course last year. Surprisingly, their pharmacy department is very well-kitted out. Their labs have all manner of beakers and glass mixology equipment. There are tiny weighing scales and a plethora of test tube supporting equipment. Design is still a big influencer here. Even in the lab, the stools look trendy and wouldn’t look out of place in an upscale pub.
THINK HUMANITIES, NOT SCIENCES
When you think USIU, you do not think science. You think humanities. They are working hard here to change that.
The library is the most impressive thing on campus. It is definitely going to the front of the brochure. It is here to make a statement. It has an imposing staircase next to a glass façade with the roof held by large metallic columns. The lounge has all those tiny, artsy seats you expect in a marketing company. The place is well-stocked, at least with regard to current affairs publications. Design was at the forefront of considerations. The walls are decorated with paintings of the great and good. Maathai and Luther King stare back at you from the wall next to an uplifting quote they once made. The library is both spacious and airy, with light flooding in from every corner.
I saw students playing rugby on the immaculately manicured lawns. Of all universities- USIU was the last university I expected to find students playing rugger, I thought they were the American football type. The university isn’t as San Diego as I expected.
The university also has a generous endowment scheme for all its scholarship. Post-KCSE students really ought to consider it for a look in.
USIU has small classes and top notch facilities. It also has competent faculty, according to their prospectus, and going through the list, several names instantly register. The cost is also comparable to that of a parallel programme in a public university. It also has a thriving student life. It should be near the top of any student’s list of potential universities.