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UCU Partners celebrates graduating journalists

By Ivan Tsebeni
A newsroom at the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Mukono campus has been hosting some of the Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communications students as they put into practice their classroom knowledge.

That newsroom was a convergence point for recent graduates in October 2020 to celebrate the completion of their Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communication. The students graduated on October 22. To crown the get-together, the students cut cake that was offered by Mark Bartels, the Executive Director of the UCU Partners, an organization that raises public awareness about UCU in the United States.

In a meeting chaired by John Semakula, the UCU Partners e-lab Communications Coordinator head of the UCU journalism and media studies department expressed gratitude to the UCU Partners for offering them a platform to hone their skills in journalism.

“I never imagined becoming a writer,” Eria Lule, one of the graduating writers, said.  “I picked the inspiration from Mr. Semakula who always kept urging me to try it out.”

“I have acquired a lot of knowledge from the trainings I have undergone in the e-lab program. I will live to remember the project,” he added.

The e-lab project, rolled out in January 2021, was designed to offer an opportunity for UCU journalism students to get real-world experience. Sixteen students under the programme were part of the more than 3,000 who graduated at UCU on October 22.

Patty Huston-Holm, Partners communications director, designed the UCU/Uganda Partners e-lab model that is aligned with the university’s mission to prepare students for both continued learning and the world of work.

For the one year that the program has been running, emphasis has been put on writing and still photography, as well as video and audio products. 

Nicolette Nampijja, one of the students who has been producing podcasts, said the training had greatly sharpened her skills in creating podcasts.

“I had always wanted to produce podcasts, but I didn’t know how to go about it,” she said. “This is an opportunity for me to start out as a podcaster.”

Posing at the Partners e-lab, end-of-year celebration with students and recent graduates are Mark Bartels (fifth-left); Partners e-lab coordinator, John Semakula (seventh-left); UCU communications manager, Frank Obonyo (on Semakula’s left); and podcast mentor and UCU academic, Geoffrey Ssenoga (fourth from right, front row).
Posing at the Partners e-lab, end-of-year celebration with students and recent graduates are Mark Bartels (fifth-left); Partners e-lab coordinator, John Semakula (seventh-left); UCU communications manager, Frank Obonyo (on Semakula’s left); and podcast mentor and UCU academic, Geoffrey Ssenoga (fourth from right, front row).

As of late November, UCU student-generated podcast episodes had aired on the topics of mainstream media, racial discrimination, fake pastors, sickle cell anemia, the life of Simon Peter and hate speech.

Jimmy Siyasa, one of the students and recent graduates, urged his colleagues to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available under the e-lab project to hone writing skills. Siyasa, who got himself a job at the university’s communications department ahead of his graduation, noted that without the skills he learned from the e-lab, he would not have been considered for the job.

Siyasa’s colleagues in the e-lab program – Nickie Karitas and Dalton Mujuni – have been hired by New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily newspaper, for a further mentorship program as they hone their journalism skills.

Bartels congratulated the students upon reaching their convocation, saying it positions them for great job opportunities. 

“It feels good to hear that you are graduating, but it feels much better to hear that you have learned and we have contributed to the same,” he said.

“As you prepare to join your career world, ours is to pray that God will open doors for you,” Bartels added. “We look forward to continuing with this project and we will feel happy to see it grow.”

Semakula said that the idea to organize a cake-cutting party for the graduands came from Bartels, based in Pennsylvania, and Huston-Holm, who resides in the state of Ohio USA.