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Simmons University Magazine

Librarianship in Rwanda

Simmons professors and students lent their skills to a girls’ school in Nyamata.

In May, Professor and Math and Computational Sciences Director Nanette Veilleux and School of Library and Information Science Associate Professor Lisa Hussey traveled to Rwanda with students Vanessa Burns ’20 and Heather Moeykens ’18. Their destination: the Maranyundo Girls School (MGS) in Nyamata, where they collaborated with the school’s computer science instructors and the library.

Photograph: Heather Moeykens ’18 and Vanessa Burns ’20 with students from the Maranyundo Girls School in Nyamata, Rwanda.

MGS is a private boarding school run by Benebikira Nuns, and it consistently scores in the top three in national testing. Many students go on to college and successful careers.

“In some ways their mission resonates with Simmons’—we both prepare young women for an independent livelihood, not just to live, but to thrive,” says Professor Nanette Veilleux, chair of Simmons’ Department of Computer Science and Informatics.

Veilleux, Burns and Moeykens worked with the faculty to identify and train students as lab curators to provide more independent use of the computer labs. They also assisted students with the development of computer programming and apps. One student group won a national award last year for an app they created.

In the library, Hussey, Burns and Moeykens introduced several well-received changes, including reorganizing fiction books into easily identifiable, color-coded categories based on reading levels. Hussey also worked with the librarian to train six students as library assistants. And the group rearranged bookshelves and created space for two study tables.

“We brought skills that were needed and, working within their systems, collaborated with the faculty and the nuns to contribute as best we could,” says Hussey.

Hussey says she and Veilleux planned the trip as a pilot with the idea of possibly establishing a relationship with MGS for future trips. It began with Veilleux’s connection to the Maranyundo Initiative in Boston, which provides philanthropic support for the school.

Veilleux photograph by Paige Burns