August 25, 2023



UCU aspiring leaders get help from F.U.E.L.

By Irene Best Nyapendi
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) guild government has started a leadership program, seeking to train students in management skills. The program, dubbed “First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership (F.U.E.L.) Program,” has been implemented at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana), Fordham University (New York) and Ohio State University, among other higher education institutions. .

“This program has given me confidence in the future of UCU,” said Timothy Ddumba, Mukono Campus Guild President. He believes F.U.E.L. will birth top-notch leaders while closing the gap of mentorship from one guild government to another. 

“It is possible [for other guild governments to adopt the program] because the students trained might be part of the next leadership,” he said of the eight Saturday sessions with 25 student participants in June and July 2023. “The impact it creates could inspire the need to sustain it.”

UCU Guild president Timothy Ddumba addressing students during one of the F.U.E.L. sessions
UCU Guild president Timothy Ddumba addressing students during one of the F.U.E.L. sessions

The free mentorship and training program is meant for students who are interested in student leadership, especially those who are already leaders in the guild government. 

Melissa Kamikazi Nsaba, the guild vice president, and Christy Asiimwe, the minister for presidency, are program leaders.

Asiimwe, a student in the School of Education,  said the vision of the program is to be a foundation of transformational leaders who champion and spread the core values of UCU.

“One of the reasons why we started this program is to nurture transformational leaders who are ready to transform the university and the world in a Christian way,” she said.

Unlike F.U.E.L. implemented at secular universities, the UCU program looks at nurturing and equipping students with leadership skills grounded in Christian values.  It is hoped that the classes will ignite leadership potential and empowerment among the students.

“I believe this program is good for the students because it helps them improve their managerial skills and abilities as future leaders, achieve better project leadership and improve risk management,” Asiimwe said.

She explained that by equipping and training those who wish to lead, those who vote them into power or are under their command are less likely to suffer the consequences of unsatisfactory and inadequate leadership. 

UCU F.U.E.L Program Beneficiaries Share Their Testimonies

Emmanuel Golyo, one of the beneficiaries of the program and a student of a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology, said he was taught what it takes to be a good leader. “I learned to understand and embrace the dynamics of the university and discovered how I can best serve to my fullest potential,” he said. He said the program helped him clarify his leadership and vision of self holistically.

During the course of the training, different speakers were invited to coach and mentor the trainees, speaking from real-life experiences.

Golyo said the program gave him a platform to understand the importance of team building and group motivation. “During each session we had a number of physical and interactive activities that nurtured in me the spirit of working with others on a project,” he said.

Mary Mangadalene Namwanje, a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration, explained that the sessions enlightened her on how to be a problem solver as a leader. She learned the characteristics of a good team and how to build it.

Namwanje is now knowledgeable about governing authorities, hierarchy and bureaucracy.

“Through the sessions I attended, I learned how to deal with different authorities, conflict resolution and decision making,” she said.

The students trained in effective communication, branding and documentation as well as public speaking. 

“While attending one of the sessions, we heard testimonies from former guild officials. One of the things they shared was how to balance life, responsibilities, relationships and work,” Namwanje said. 

The students also were taken through lessons on discovering themselves in leadership.

The F.U.E.L. Program is one of the pledges the guild president wrote in his manifesto on creating an environment to nurture future leaders. The seminars were sponsored by the guild budget.


Vice Chancellor’s wife mentors students toward meaningful lives

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Should I get into a serious relationship now? Is it the right time to get married? How do I know if I have the right partner? How do I know if I am in a bad relationship? What about sex? How do I achieve academic excellence with all these pressures? How do I grow my career?

Patience Rubabinda Mushengyezi, fondly known as “Mama Pesh” (short for Mother Patience), has been guiding Uganda Christian University (UCU) on these topics and more during monthly forums since May 2023. The monthly “Talk to Mama Pesh,” sessions are designed to be open, honest, and informal.  

Patience Mushengyezi addressing students during the first “Talk to Mama Pesh” forum. She was with fellow mentors Faith Musinguzi (left) and Jolly Kavuma.
Patience Mushengyezi addressing students during the first “Talk to Mama Pesh” forum. She was with fellow mentors Faith Musinguzi (left) and Jolly Kavuma.

Mama Pesh, wife of Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi for 26 years,  has been working with university students for over 20 years. She has nurtured over 12 non-biological children from childhood to graduation. She is a premarital counselor for young couples, mentor for young adults and leader at church. She is a mother of four. She is a Deputy Registrar at Makerere University,

“I developed a passion to talk to university students about values and morals to help open their eyes on things that can destroy their lives,” she said. “These are issues such as addictions, which lead to mental challenges and failure to complete their studies.” 

Mama Pesh said that she was further inspired by the Bible, in the book of Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself…”. Mama Pesh acknowledged that vices of drug or substance abuse, sexual immorality, wrong relationships and unwanted pregnancies are not limited to secular universities.

 “I love the UCU motto of ‘Centre of Excellence in the Heart of Africa’ because my desire is to have academic excellence with values,” she said. “I am passionate about all students, both male and female. When we talk to them, they grow into responsible citizens, wives, mothers, husbands, fathers and have strong Christian families in the future.”.

Students discuss among themselves before the question-and-answer session with mentors at a “Talk to Mama Pesh” session.
Students discuss among themselves before the question-and-answer session with mentors at a “Talk to Mama Pesh” session.

One of the goals of the forum is to provide young people a platform to be mentored into leaders of today and tomorrow. The forum is meant to be “a secure space where young people can discuss freely with mentors about issues that affect their academic, social and spiritual lives.”

Mama Pesh emphasized that the end goal is to see that students achieve academic excellence with values. She also provides a safe space for the students that would like to share with her privately away from the presence of their colleagues.

Mama Pesh does the mentorship in partnership with the office of the Vice-Chancellor, Directorate of Students’ Affairs, the Chaplaincy, Counseling Unit and the Guild. In addition, she invites experienced counselors and mentors for the forum. The value of peer mentors is learning from someone who has more recently been where they are. 

How the forum has become a beacon of inspiration to UCU students.

The forum has become a beacon of inspiration in the lives of UCU students.

Jackson Leoru, a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with Education, found the forum beneficial because it helps students prepare to be adults. “Through the forum, I got guidance to make healthy choices that create a positive impact in my life in school and in relationships,” he said.

He said he will pass along to others such learning as relationships need patience and prayer. “I learnt that sometimes you may see someone and think he or she is the one meant for you, yet they are actually not the ones, so we need to pray about it and also be patient.”

Natasha Alinda poses for a photo with Mama Pesh after one of the sessions at UCU main campus in Mukono.
Natasha Alinda poses for a photo with Mama Pesh after one of the sessions at UCU main campus in Mukono.

Natasha Alinda, a third-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance, said the program is a good foundation upon which a student can build themselves “in order to be first and foremost a very good child to their parents, a very good student in school, and a good citizen in their nation.”

Through the forum, Alinda (a residential assistant at the female’s main university hall) has discovered the value of intentionality and self-worth. “I learned to value myself and carefully choose the people I associate with as well as the friends I make,” she said.

She adds that as a student, the talks have taught her to schedule and maneuver around student leadership, friendships and education.

“I am so grateful to Mama Pesh for sparing time amidst her busy schedule to talk to us and hold our hands through this journey of life at no cost because so many people are charged to get such guidance,” she said.