The Secure Information Management Environment (SIME) social media lab was launched on Thursday, April 5, during a ceremony attended by the American Ambassador H.E. Bob Godec, Chancellor Dr. Manu Chandaria, Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza and other senior University and embassy officials.

The lab, which is a joint effort funded by the United States government to the tune of KES 20 million, will be based in the Incubation and Innovation Center, and overseen by Lab Coordinator Dr. Patrick Wamuyu (Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Technology).

The lab, an unprecedented undertaking, is predicated on providing big data and social media analytics insights, powered by the IBM Watson Analytics for Social Media software.

Massive collections of user-created information often termed big data, are frequently generated through social media sources. This has inevitably led to the proliferation of misinformation - a challenge that has been the focus of the U.S. Embassy’s #StopReflectVerify campaign to combat ‘fake news’ - a term that has come to refer to deliberate misinformation or hoaxes created to deceive and thus influence views, push agendas or cause confusion.

In “The Reality of Fake News in Kenya” - a study by Portland and Geopoll based on the 2017 Kenyan General Elections, it was revealed that 90% of Kenyans were exposed to fake news concerning the elections, while 87% reported instances of deliberate fake news.

The Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza underlined the role the lab will play in promoting the use of research to provide accurate well-informed engagements within and between the different facets of society.

In his remarks, Ambassador Godec singled out the privacy and security threats arising  from the ‘boundless opportunities’ presented by digital technology.

He expressed his hope that the lab’s “upcoming research on Kenyan social media use will bring us all to a better understanding of Kenya in the digital age – and especially Kenyan youth.”

The SIMELab at USIU-Africa is the first multidisciplinary research laboratory to be set up in Africa, to study social media.

The laboratory will provide a platform for research and training in analyzing the social media and internet consumption in Kenya. This will thereafter culminate in an annual publication on the situation analysis, regarding the consumption of new media and social media in Kenya, and the launch of the first-ever International Digital Communication Congress.

Increasingly, the need to sort through and classify big data, requires analytical tools that will enable businesses and media outfits to make decisions and communicate information that is accurate  and useful.

IBM Watson Analytics for Social Media software provides tools for Product Research and Development, Marketing Strategy and Competitive Intelligence. These tools, use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to parse and synthesize data.

While demonstrating capabilities of the IBM Watson Analytics for Social Media software, Dr. Maria Canudo (Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications), initiated a sentiment-driven search of social media mentions, using the keywords “Winnie Mandela”. Sentiment analysis, a concept premised on extracting subjective data, will be useful for deducing trends in public opinion and extracting relationships between customer perceptions and brand messaging.

The large volume of data, in this case fifty thousand results, displayed during the demonstration, points to the potency of the  analytical capabilities and storage capacity of IBM’s cloud-based infrastructure.

Following the launch, some students such as Applied Computer Technology major Mr. Jacktone Momanyi, were offered a chance to voice their current and planned undertakings regarding social media analytics. His application involves integrating a local Twitter analytics application with Tableau - a data visualization service.

Other laboratory services include consultancy services that will entail research for companies interested in social media and other aspects of new media,  that cover a wide range of matters such as impact evaluation for partner projects, advocacy on different topics, training, education and management.

The laboratory will further train investigative journalists on how to use big data and inform the public through social media research.
Two book review articles by Dr. Kioko Ireri, an Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication have been published in the current issue of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, the flagship journal of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Education (AEJC).

Authored by Erin Tolley, Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics, looks at the reportage of White and visible minority candidates so that patterns of media framing can be compared. Specifically, the volume explores the contextual nature of racialized media coverage by looking at a number of factors that include candidate gender, political party affiliation, and the diversity of the ridings in which politicians run.

Similarly, it investigates candidates’ own views on media coverage and race in politics. It sheds light on the work that journalists do, the constraints that they face, and how they think about covering stories touching on diversity.

Tolley outlines two strong justifications why Framed  is useful. It is the first Canadian study that documents visible minority and White candidates’ accounts of their electoral, communication, and image management strategies and assesses how a politician’s race affects self-presentation and media portrayals. Second, the book positions the media as a vital link in the citizen–politics relationship. Tolley is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, where she teaches Canadian politics.

The other book, Image and Emotion in Voter Decisions: The Affect Agenda examines the media coverage of politicians’ images and their influence on voters in election campaigns. Politicians’ images are comprehensively interrogated in terms of attributes, appearance, characteristics, and personal style—and how these factors shape voters’ attitudes in evaluating political candidates. The volume is the incredible work of Renita Coleman, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism, and Denis Wu, associate professor of communication at Boston University. Coleman and Wu provide two key arguments why politicians’ images matter in political communications scholarship, especially when studied from affect, information processing, and agenda-setting theoretical standpoints. First, many public office seekers are assessed not on the issue stances they embrace, but on their images — self-presentation, emotional displays, and personal attributes. Second, in spite of numerous studies on the influence of mediated agendas on politics, Coleman and Wu point out that most research examine texts only—yet the news media does not deliver words only. Thus, they argue that the potential impact of visuals on people’s perceptions is too important to ignore in research. This is so because visuals make stories on television credible and interesting, resulting in what the authors refer to as “picture superiority.”
On Friday, March 29, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza flagged off the most recent addition to the University’s six-bus fleet. The new 40-seater modern coach bus was flagged off by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza accompanied by officials from the Administration Division as well as other senior university officials.

Operations Director Eng. Paul Warui described the new addtion as part of the transport fleet upgrade plan, which anticipates an overhaul of the entire fleet by the year 2020.  According to him, the KES 13 million bus will lead to greater efficiency and address the growing needs of the expanding university population, both of which are part of the transport department’s strategic plan imperatives.

The new bus is accompanied by a host of new features such as USB charging, a modern entertainment system, reclining seats and a more powerful turbo-charged engine. These features, Engineer Warui said, are designed to make lengthy bus journeys comfortable and exciting.

But the bus’ most striking feature remains a new hydraulic platform at the back.  The platform - arguably the first of its kind on college buses in Kenya - enables wheelchair-bound passengers to be lifted to the floor of the bus without leaving their wheelchair. Additionally, the bus has the capacity to secure and transport up to seven such passengers on a given journey.

Speaking before he flagged off the bus’ first trip, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza, applauded officials from the Administration Division for their efforts in facilitating the university’s objective of universal access to all campus services.

According to the World Report on Disability (World Health Organization and World Bank 2011) more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability caused by mental, physical or sensory impairment.

The new Policy for Access of Persons with Disabilities, and Other Special Needs establishes minimum standards and expectations at institutional, school, program, course and individual levels at the university, in relation to the provision of quality and inclusive education for persons who are differently abled.

Prof. Zeleza pointed out that the new bus is a reflection of the University’s determination to give effect to this new policy, “We are going to implement this policy in all aspects of our programs and services to make sure that all of us feel that sense of belonging.”
The Library and Information Center on Tuesday, March 27 hosted the United Nations/World Bank University Librarians Workshop at the Library Bookshop. The meeting whose objective was to ‘Learn Strategies on how to document and build business cases supporting the library and develop brief and meaningful surveys to back funding decisions’ was held against a backdrop of increasing pressure on university librarians to provide justifications for funding that will strengthen library services.
While making his remarks Associate DVC- Student Affairs Prof. Munyae Mulinge, underscored the role librarians play in disseminating information. He urged them to inculcate a reading culture in academic institutions through working together with instructors.
Librarians were encouraged to come up with a common survey tool that can be used to solicit users’ views on library services, that will produce evidence in the form of data to administrators in order to build cases to solicit funding.
My name is Daisy Wanzala, and I am the CEO and founder of DW Communications - a public relations, marketing and communications company that offers world-class public relations and marketing solutions to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to enable them have an equal playing field with big corporations, convert their products into sales and most importantly, create and convey their brand messages in a more convenient and effective way to their target audience.
I call myself the daughter of the universe because it took a lot of people to get me to where I am, some whom I know and others whom I don’t.

I joined United States International University – Africa in the year 2012 pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, just after I had lost my mother. I was emotionally unstable and helpless because I didn’t know how I would fit in with all the stereotypes (it was only meant for the rich) that were attached to this incredible institution.
Let’s face it, for a girl like me there was a 1% chance of making it. But that was not the case; I found my tribe - young, innovative and creative people who had incredible aspirations of becoming the best version of themselves with mentorship and guidance from the knowledgeable lecturers and staff.

I was lucky enough to receive two scholarships that contributed immensely to my education; one from the Mel Kol Foundation and the other was the USIU-Africa Work Study Program. This was a turning point in my life, not only because I could now study peacefully, but also because someone cared enough to take a chance on my dreams and aspirations - something that as made me forever indebted to humanity and my university!

Talent and youth are the currency of this generation - something that USIU-Africa is heavily invested in, by ensuring students are engaged in degree programs that inculcate such values as how to learn and think critically, participation in various clubs such as AIESEC and various exchange programs. These opportunities gave me a broader world view other than that which I was accustomed to back home in Busia County.

As if that was not enough, the multi-cultural environment made me an all-rounded individual who developed excellent communication and people skills, which are the core of my business today, after graduating with an impressive GPA in the year 2015.

Being the only survivor from a family of five makes me accountable to my ancestry and generations to come for what I do with my time here on earth. I have learnt how to make use of a given moment, seek opportunities and break barriers as I try to seek perfection. Someone once asked me what was my greatest achievement in life, and honestly I believe it had to be my next project.

Since I want more responsibility and accountability in life, I took a leap and auditioned for BLAZE BYOB by Safaricom - a television program that brings together 12 young entrepreneurs from across the country to engage with different brand partners such as Kenya Airways, Masoko and M-Kopa Solar just to mention but a few. The contestants undertake different challenges as they compete against each other in order for one to become the ‘last boss standing’!

My experience at BLAZE BYOB has been incredible and beyond measure as I have moved outside my comfort zone in public relations and marketing, to learn various professional skills in such fields as finance and logistics, and how to always put the client first! Other than fulfilling my passion in media relations at Blaze, one thing I have learnt for sure is that there is room for more creativity and innovation, that only we the millennials can execute!

Just like Dr. Nelson Mandela, Prof. Wangari Maathai, Oprah Winfrey or Steve Jobs, may we never quit dreaming regardless of those who cannot fathom the depth of our
thinking, the width of our imagination and the audacity of our aspirations.

So here is to us! The outliers! Creators and innovators!
On Monday, March 12, Mr. Abdi Latif Dahir (Journalism ’11) was invited by Journalism lecturer Ms. Robi K. Ochieng, to speak to the Spring 2018 JRN3026 Gender Reporting class. Mr. Dahir graduated in 2011 at the top of his Journalism class, before later joining Columbia University’s School of Journalism, where he obtained a Master of Arts degree in Political Journalism. Since then he has been working as a reporter for Quartz Africa in East and Northern Africa.

In his lecture, Mr. Dahir challenged his audience to base their stories on core topics and questions of seismic importance to the target audience, “Design stories that actually talk to individuals,” he said. He further encouraged members of the class to venture into untapped opportunities in journalism, citing Quartz Africa as an example.

Mr. Dahir also spoke about the format of news stories, asking the students to factor in a broad worldview by designing content primarily for the devices closest at hand: tablets and mobile phones. Indeed, according to GeoPol, African millennials are increasingly using social media sites as tools for communication and a source of news and information. The survey revealed the prevalence of social networks as an integral part of everyday life given that 60% use social media as their primary source of information, television came a distant second at 25%, while newspapers trailed with 6%.

Further data from Statista pointed at the growing number of internet users worldwide, who in 2017 numbered 3.58 billion, up from 3.39 billion the previous year. Such figures illustrate not only the rich source of information available, but also the expanding market for a journalist’s content.

Mr. Dahir concluded his remarks by urging his audience to never ignore an opportunity that comes their way - a remark that no doubt reverberated with members of the class long after the lecture concluded.
A record number of nationalities participated in this year’s cultural bonanza - Culture Week - held from March 13-15 behind the cafeteria and next to the hockey pitch.
From the exhibition to the concert performances, students, faculty and staff caught a glimpse of the melting pot of cultures that are represented within the University community.
The Week launched with an exhibition from twenty-six national communities who each set up a stand behind the cafeteria, showcasing their artifacts, dances, food and other aspects of their culture.
The Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza joined the cultural parade on Wednesday, March 14, as it snaked its way from the Science Center to the Cafeteria, comprising student delegations from such countries as Central Africa Republic, China, India, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Norway, Somalia, Rwanda, United Arab Emirates, among others.
Speaking at the launch ceremony following the parade, Prof. Zeleza remarked on the wonderful opportunities provided by Culture Week to bring members of the University from diverse backgrounds together, in appreciation of their rich cultural heritage. He pointed that of all University events, Culture Week possessed a unique ability to create harmonious co-existence among the over 70 nationalities represented within the University community.
During the Culture Week Concert, fifteen communities showcased their dances and attire to an audience of almost 2000 students, faculty and staff who turned up despite the incessant rain.
Representatives from ten nationalities scooped awards in recognition of their outstanding participation over the course of the three-day festival. The Best Represented Community (Performance) was awarded to the South Sudanese community who performed an eccentric dance that captured the attention of the crowd. Rwanda and Burundi took second and third place respectively.
India took home the Award for the Best Represented Community (Exhibition), followed by the Arabic community and the Somali community in that order. This category recognized how well the communities executed their exhibition space, and the level of interactivity that they had with their audiences.
Students from Uganda clinched the Award for Best Researched Community, for their skit about a traditional marriage ceremony, while Nigeria and Tanzania took up first and second runners-up positions respectively.
The Incubation and Innovation Center in collaboration with Gearbox Limited, organized a mini-hackathon dubbed “Exposathon” on Saturday, March 10 at their offices on the third floor of the Freida Brown Student Center.

Focused on the use of specific next-generation technologies, the exposathon comprised four teams of students using rapid prototyping, to work on four different projects.

Rapid prototyping is a technique used at the Incubation and Innovation Center to rapidly transition student projects from idea, to proof-of-concept, to a functional prototype, with the goal to publicly launch the product and create upwardly-scalable product activities. This kind of hardware development would ordinarily require an extended period of research and development and would call for significant upfront investment. But with the help of IoT devices, 3D printers and other low-cost prototyping techniques, students now have the chance to experiment with something new and leave room for error.

Each of the four teams went through a process of ideation within allocated four-hour window focused on certain areas; air quality monitoring by sensing for public awareness and policy making, wildlife monitoring for poaching prevention using a convergence of IoT (Internet of Things), satellite communication and artificial intelligence; IoT (Internet of Things) for deforestation prevention, and lastly making greenhouses intelligent by automating the process. The hackathon was aptly named 4:44, smartly referring to the challenge of 4 teams given 4 hours to prototype 4 projects, beginning at 10am with an hour’s break for lunch.

Based on how well the project ideas were defined, justified and implemented, Ms. Grace Owiti and Mr. Vishaal Ravalia, were awarded fully-funded training scholarships at Gearbox worth KES 70,000 and while the rest won a partial training scholarship worth KES 55,000. Gearbox Limited is a rapid prototyping center, with a mission to impact the economy positively by employing technical innovation round IoT, Robotics, Blockchain, AI and 3D printing and virtual reality.
It was a victorious end for our various ladies’ sports teams who took part in the Kenya University Sports Association (KUSA) Women Championship. Our hockey team clinched gold, while the karate team won silver and the taekwondo, basketball and lawn tennis teams each brought back a bronze medal.

In other competitions, the men’s hockey team beat Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT) 2-0 while their female counterparts were held to a goalless draw ay the JKUAT ladies team in the ongoing KUSA League on Saturday, March 17 at Kenyatta University. Both teams will travel to western town of Kitale, for the Nabungolo Peace Tournament this coming weekend.

The ladies’ basketball team triumphed over Mt. Kenya University and Daystar University on Saturday, March 17 in the KUSA League at Kenyatta University. Joined by their male counterparts, the team will participate in the Tom Munyama Tournament on Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25 at Strathmore University.

The men’s rugby team will this weekend travel to Eldoret to play against Moi University in the ongoing Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Championship. This follows the team’s goalless draw against Egerton University and defeat at the hands of Championship leaders - Menengai Oilers - on Saturday, March 11 in Nakuru.
Two teams taught by Ms. Sarah Ambiyo (Lecturer of English) and Dr. Martin Mburu (Assistant Professor of English), debated “With the advent of the Internet and the simplicity of Google, do you think the library is still necessary for the 21st century student?” on Friday, March 9 and Monday, March 12.

The debates were hosted by the Library and Information Center, for students in the SUS1010 Strategies for Success classes, as part of a concerted push this semester, to develop a ‘library use culture’ among students, by making library presentations in classrooms, and hosting class visits at the Library.