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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance: MUBS Graduation 2013

May and June seem to be a time for celebration no matter where you are in the world.  Although many Drake students were not able to celebrate college or high school graduations with loved ones and friends due to our travels, we had the chance to attend a graduation ceremony at MUBS, our partner school here in Kampala. 

I am generally of the mindset that if you’ve seen one graduation, you’ve seen them all.  Inspirational speeches are given, many people you don’t know walk across a stage to shake hands with important university officials, and snacks are eaten after.  The MUBS graduation was very different from this. 

The graduation ceremony began early in the morning with family members beginning to arrive at 8am.  Traditional African music and dance greeted them and continued throughout the entire ceremony.  I noticed that whenever there was a break in speaking, the music started again.  This seemed refreshing and upbeat, something very important during a 4 hour ceremony. 

The MUBS graduation ceremony included national and school anthems, prayers, and speeches, similar to those in America.  The speeches, however, were what threw me.  During the ceremony, it was said that the purpose of graduation is to celebrate the accomplishments of a university.  In America, I believe the focus is on recognizing the accomplishments of the individual graduates.  Part of the MUBS ceremony involved a listing of the university’s progress throughout the year, including number of graduates, new programs, and large-scale successes.  The ceremony also held time to ask the government to support learning institutions like MUBS financially. 

The tone of the MUBS graduation ceremony seemed very formal to me.  Speakers were always polite and everything seemed to be addressed to the Chancellor of the university.  I found this interesting.  It really seemed to fit with the idea that graduation celebrated the university rather than the individual.  To further this theme, the university recognized graduates in a way different from American graduations.  The dean of each school would read aloud the title of a degree and all of these students would stand.  They would then be presented to the Chancellor of the university for recognition and congratulations before sitting.  This was done as a collective group for each degree program offered at MUBS. 

I did find a similarity between the MUBS graduation and American graduations I have attended.  Inspirational speeches are given and addressed to the graduates at both.  At this ceremony, Mr. Patrick Bitature, an entrepreneur, reminded graduates that a diploma is not an end in and of itself.  They must still work hard to achieve their dreams.  He also reminded students that 20 is the new 30.  The time is now and recent graduates must make the most of it.  I know I will remember this when it comes my time to graduate as well as now.  I mean, I’m in Uganda, right? 

How did your high school or college graduation compare to the MUBS graduation?  Have you attended any other graduations?  Include these in your comparison. 

What were your thoughts on Mr. Bitature’s speech at gradation? 


  1. I agree, the graduation ceremony did not focus on individual accomplishments, but instead focused on accomplishments of the university. I also found it very interesting that the students were only allowed to bring two guests to the graduation ceremony. I liked that Mr. Bitature spoke at the graduation. It was really motivating listening to his story, how he started out with nothing, and through entrepreneurship and hard work, he has built a very successful brand. It shows the students that if they work hard and seize opportunities, success is achievable.

  2. I haven't been to many graduation ceremonies in my life, so the one that stands out most in my mind that I can compare the MUBS graduation ceremony to is my high school graduation ceremony. One of the major differences between my high school graduation ceremony and the MUBS graduation ceremony was the focus of the speeches and ceremony in general. I think that the MUBS graduation ceremony focused largely on future potential of its students and the institution instead of what has already been accomplished, as do many high school ceremonies in the US. Ugandans in general find great value in their education and see it primarily as a means of helping them to achieve their goals, instead of something that they are forced to/expected to complete. I think this particular emphasis is important since it recognizes the fact that one must continually work towards progress and new accomplishments instead of becoming content with what they have already done.

  3. My high school graduation was not similar to MUBS. Instead of professors or a VIP speaking, the valedictorians spoke. Instead of only being allowed 2 guests, we were allowed 13. It was much more focused on our class as individuals (minus the speeches) because each of us were given our 5 seconds of attention as we walked across a long stage, received our diplomas, posed for a picture, and walked back to our seats. MUBS acknowledged only the top two students. I think that is a good reflection of our countries: America is much more focused on individualism and personal accomplishments while Uganda seems to constantly refer to its cultural history and remind their community of their background. I was inspired by Patrick's speech; he definitely caught my attention and was an excellent example of how an individual's determination and hard work, no matter what background, can lead to great accomplishments.

  4. ^above posted by Lisa Feldmann on Kristen's account

  5. I think that the major differences between our own high school graduations and the MUBS graduation have been touched on by the people above pretty well. The focus in the US is obviously individualism and honoring the accomplishments of each individual as to not leave anyone or anything out. In Uganda, the focus was centered on the school it’s successes and the achievements of the school and its students collectively, but never on each individual student except when the top two students who were individually recognized. This I believe is a direct result of the culture here in the US. The next question focuses on the speech given by Mr. Patrick Bitature’s speech given at the graduation. I am unsure if this is a reoccurring thing at the graduation or not, but after hearing him speech it should be. This man has a very powerful voice in Uganda and more specifically in Ugandan business. He is one of the top entrepreneurs in the entire country and is highly regarded by the public, but more precisely by these business students who have very similar aspirations to those of Mr. Bitature. His speech injected the graduates with the motivation for the future of now and provided them with sound life advice.