Speech of Dr. KABERA Callixte supervisor during his graduation ceremony

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Laudatio Callixte Kabera, 2 November 2017

Dear Doctor Kabera (how does that sound? ;-), dear Callixte,

It is probably for the first and last time that you and I will stand in this official capacity opposite each other, me speaking to you, while you are supposed to listen, me ‘in charge’, you ‘the dependent’, instead of the other way around.  So let me make the most of this opportunity as long as it lasts ;-), also on behalf of promoter Professor Marcel Veenswijk.

As Vice-Chancellor of the Rwandan University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies, UTB in short, you are used to be ‘in charge’ and ‘to lead’. And that is what you have done with UTB from the very beginning in 2006, when you started this university as the Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC).Your idea, your entrepreneurialism, your business skills, your preparedness to take risks, your persistence, your leadership,  they transformed the University College into the fully government accredited University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies it is today. A university with two campuses, one in Kigali and one in Rubavu.

So is it a surprise that your PhD thesis is on entrepreneurialism in tourism in Rwanda? I don’t think so. Is it a surprise that based on your research you come up with policy recommendations? I don’t think so. Is it a surprise that when you started this PhD, you already knew almost anything there is to know about this topic in Rwanda? I don’t think so. What may be a surprise to some who don’t know you, is that you did your PhD on top of the incredibly demanding job of being a Vice-Chancellor of a fast growing university. I think you succeeded on the road to a PhD because of a number of reasons:

  • You are smart
  • You are willing to learn
  • You finish what you start
  • You are prepared to sacrifice
  • You work incredibly long hours
  • You are an entrepreneur with a mission
  • And ……. that Dr. Wim Kouwenhoven was the project manager

What also helped was that you could ‘hide’ yourself regularly in the Netherlands, twice for a period of three months, and write large chunks of the thesis. Don’t get me wrong: What this in reality came down to, was that you worked from 5 am till 7 pm on your thesis and then spent the evening up till midnight sorting out the ongoing processes in Rwanda. And that for seven days a week … because there are not eight days in a week. I admire as well your flexibility of being a student in the Netherlands, living as a student, dressing like an average Dutch student, while having a respected position in Rwanda, with the appropriate dress code as a Vice-Chancellor.

Your efforts  have resulted in a thesis that was unanimously accepted by the Reading Committee. I want to mention especially here that we are so happy that the Reading Committee was an optimal mix of colleagues from Europe and the African continent, giving credence to this academic project, funded by Nuffic and connecting the academic worlds of Europe and Africa. And we are equally happy that Professor Kieti from Moi University in Kenya and Professor Boonzaaier from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, could make it to the Netherlands despite their busy schedules, to be part of your public defense.

For me, working with you was a huge privilege! Although I am a bit familiar with other parts of the African continent, I had no earlier experiences with Rwanda as a country, nor with Rwandans. Although I know that in terms of research methodology ‘N=1’ is not considered a quantitative base to make a convincing scientific and statistical argument. I would nonetheless dare to argue that how you have been working through this PhD shows that you are the best champion for Rwanda and its people it could wish for: such dedication leading to such tangible results.

To end this laudatio I would like to give an example how a tiny little change on paper makes for a huge difference and impact in daily life: If you now check the website and sites where there are references to the rector of UTB, it says ‘Mr. Callixte Kabera’, ‘Mister’ spelled capital ‘M’, small ‘r’. After this ceremony the only thing that will change is that one capital letter ‘M’ is being changed into a capital ‘D’; changing the ‘M’ ‘r’ into ‘D’ ’r’; changing ‘Mister’ into ‘Doctor’. This little change in spelling comes with a huge impact befitting a Rector of your stature and responsibilities: From now on you will be addressed with the respect that only a very small percentage of Rwandans share with you: having a PhD, and having an international PhD on top of it. It will come with the international stature of and respect for this title and will open up all kind of new international research and intellectual avenues for you and the university you lead. I feel privileged that I played my little part in changing that capital ‘M’ in a huge capital and bold ‘D’ and will follow your further route to your next successes with great anticipation!

Congratulations to you once more and also congratulations to your wife Eugenie and family! They have every reason to be proud of you!

Go well my dear friend, Doctor Callixte Kabera!

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