USAP Forum 2011 Recap

This year, the annual USAP Forum was hosted by Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The conference brought a crowd of over 100 individuals consisting of USAP students and professionals in America, USAP advisors and staff from various academic institutions. It was held over the weekend from June 17 to Monday, June 20.

The vision for this year's forum was entitled Envisioning the Future: USAP Dreams Global. The forum focused on the growing role that USAP is playing on an international stage through the achievements of its students that go beyond academic disciplines into positions of leadership and charity.

A generalized view of the USAP student body shows that it consists of individuals from diverse nationalities and backgrounds pursuing a high quality education at reputable institutions. A closer look, however, reveals that each individual has a set of qualifications and academic pursuits that are both unique and outstanding and that they share with a fellow student within the organization. In light of these commonalities, another goal of the conference was to establish interest groups within USAP that would facilitate networking between students and alumni with professional or academic goals.

Marichal Gentry, the Yale College Dean of Student Affairs opened the conference with a welcome address on Saturday morning. Dean Gentry spoke of the qualities that effective leaders of today and tomorrow must possess and the importance of mentors throughout our lives. The full text of his speech can be found below.

Advisors from various countries in which USAP is growing gave updates on the successes they have had with the students they work with and the challenges they face in their respective countries. The advisors present at this year's conference and the countries they represented were Rebecca Mano for Zimbabwe; Susan Knowles for South Africa; Andreza Martins for Brazil; Alexis Robertson for Uganda; Ifeanyi Olagbaju for Nigeria and Maria Mercedes Salmon for Ecuador. John Manners, the co-founder of the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project (KENSAP), also attended the conference together with some of the students in his program.

During the lunch meal on Saturday, Jeffrey Brenzel, the Yale College Dean of Admissions gave a speech on how to get the most out of the liberal arts education. This was followed by Martin Ganda's presentation on the Seeds of Africa Foundation. Martin Ganda spoke of a shared desire with his friend and USAP student Simbarashe Marekera to give back that led them to found Seeds of Africa, a non-profit organization that would support economically disadvantaged students in Zimbabwe. Martin Ganda also introduced a new project to build a Knowledge Centre - an educational facility equipped with computers to provide educational resources and exposure to the world via the internet - for low income students in Zimbabwe.

The USAP Professional Interest Groups were established and convened for their first sessions. There were four groups in the following categories: Science and Engineering; Biology/Biomedical Engineering; Business and Finance and Development and Social Change. Students chose which session to attend according to their interests and signed up for the creation of mailing lists and groups to inform one another of opportunities and interesting projects.

Student presentations were led by Doreen Mashu, Tendai Mudyiwa and Tambu Kudze. Doreen Mashu talked about USAP Cares, which is involved in promoting volunteer activities in the communities in Zimbabwe.

Tendai Mudyiwa introduced the USAP Mentorship Program to encourage integration, advice and support of incoming USAP students with more their more experienced brothers and sisters in the USAP family from different countries. If you would like to share your thoughts on the Mentorship program you can access the blog here.

There was also a presentation on the USAP Trust Fund, which is the main account for USAP students to donate money towards sponsoring incoming USAP students. This money goes towards the paying of acceptance fees, SEVIS fees as well as air tickets. You can learn more about USAP Trust Fund or make a donation here.

The Forum culminated with the Talent Show in which students showed off their musical talent, dancing ability and even spoken word. One highlight of the evening was the fashion show, which was sponsored by AFR Clothing. A USAP student, Kuda Biza, founded AFR Clothing which is an organization dedicated to educating orphaned children across Africa by raising money from the sale of various pieces of stylish clothing. More information on AFR Clothing can be found here.

On Monday the 20th of June, conference participants departed from Yale University marking the end of an exciting weekend. Saying goodbye is never easy but we will meet again next year at the 2012 USAP Forum!