Kenya Program Details

The Kenya-SLU Connection

Course Components

Alumni Reflections     


Coming Home     


Program Faculty and Staff


The Kenya-SLU Connection

The SLU Program in Kenya began with a January term in 1972 and has operated a semester program since 1974.  In 2005 we added a summer program. During this time, nearly 1900 students have participated from more than 30 colleges and universities.

Students on the Kenya Semester Program (KSP) have benefited from transformative education experiences. For many of them, this serves as an introduction to later post-graduate opportunities and, for some, careers in Africa. Over the years, KSP alumni have worked in the Peace Corps, in World Teach, at the African Wildlife Foundation, and often led student trips back to East Africa via Putney Student Travel. Countless KSP students have also worked for a variety of Kenyan based NGO's such as: the Sally Test Pediatric Care Center in Eldoret, African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), Carolina for Kibera, Family Health Options, Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya, the International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering (ICROSS), Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development, Cheetah Conservation Fund, Watamu Turtle Watch, Wakuluzu, Friends of the Colobus Trust, Association of the Physically Disabled of Kenya (Bombolulu), Soft Power Education, Haba Na Hama Youth Spirits Association, Nyumbani, Covenant House, New Life Home, and the WEMA Center. 

A number of the KSP alumni have even started their own NGO's and businesses in Kenya often with Kenyan partners and friends met on the program: See for instance, Ajiri TeaAfrica SomaThe Boma ProjectEcosandals, and The Northern Kenya Fund.

While KSP students have benefitted tremendously from their experience early on, St. Lawrence University asked: what steps can we take to ensure that Kenyans also benefit from our presence in Kenya?  This concern for reciprocity has been a key element in what students have taken from the program as we strive for a mutually beneficial relationship with our Kenyan counterparts. For instance:

  • Since 1984, St. Lawrence has offered annual scholarship opportunities to Kenyan students. Many of our Kenyan scholarship alumni have gone on to distinguished careers across Kenya including two being elected to the Kenyan Parliament. (Learn about two of our distinguished alums below)
  • Since 1992, SLU has offered a two-year position as visiting Swahili instructor to Kenyans who are able either to conduct research towards a Ph.D. from a Kenyan university or to earn a master's degree from SLU.
  • The St. Lawrence Campus in Nairobi supports a staff of over 15 full-time Kenyan employees.

Reflections from SLU Kenyan Alumni

Chachu Ganya 96', current Kenyan Member of Parliament from North Horr. "The best friends I made, which are still very close to me, to date, are the ones I met on SLU KSP program in Nairobi before I went to Canton. Most of them supported me through SLU, and even my graduate program. Most of them have been supporting communities in Northern Kenya through a NGO I have been directing. Over a dozen of them have visited and stayed with my extended families in Northern Kenya. I have also visited them many times in the States. I hope in future, we will be visiting each other in company of our families, as most of us are married now. We have learnt a lot about each other's cultures, and it has surely influenced our look and approach to many issues in life. I gave a female camel to the first born son of one of my best friends. As he lives in the States, I wanted him to build his own herd of camel. That is the ultimate gift as a Gabbra that I could give to a friend I treasure most.  One of my best friends formed an NGO in the States to support education of the students in Northern Kenya. The NGO is called Northern Kenya Fund (NKF), and to date we have supported about 80 students in one of the best secondary schools in Kenya. This year we have started to support two university students."

Ken Okoth 01', Former SLU Trustee and founder of Children of Kibera: "By supporting the Red Rose School in Kibera, I am able to create education opportunities for about 90 children who would be left out of the public schools. The Red Rose School also creates living-wage employment for a teaching and non-teaching staff of ten people living in Kibera, including trained teachers that have not received employment postings to government schools through the Ministry of Education. The orphans and vulnerable children who attend Red Rose receive two meals a day through the feeding program we pay for, good academic preparation in small-classroom settings, and psycho-social support through their teachers and friends who know and love them in a very supportive school environment. In February 2008, the Children of Kibera Foundation started its high school scholarship program for teenagers from Kibera by sending to boarding school four girls who had passed the KCPE exam but were blocked from starting high school by their lack of school fees. These four girls have attended State House Girls, Parklands Arya, Senior Chief Koinange, and Hospital Hill High Schools."

Learn More About Alumni and How To Build On The KSP Experience

  • Habari Gani? Swahili for "What's the news?" Stay in touch with past participants of the Kenya Semester Program and with things that are happening in Kenya through the Habari Gani column in the St. Lawrence University quarterly magazine.
  • Connect with hundreds of other KSP alums and see photos from past semester via our Facebook page
  • Read alumni reflections about the impact of the program on their lives today. 
  • You can read reflections from students that were collected leading up to the 25th anniversary of the program that was celebrated at St. Lawrence in 1999. 
  • The end of your KSP semester is not the end of your Kenya experience, learn more about how you can integrate Kenya into your academic and professional goals.

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Course Components

The core course, Culture, Environment and Development of East Africa is the organizing basis for the semester and is comprised of several field components which students participate in throughout the semester. Swahili language study and the two additional elective courses are taken in blocks between field components. Be sure to click on the below links to see photo galleries for each component, and see thecalendar for a more detailed semester schedule.   

The Orientation Week:
Upon their arrival, students are introduced to the various aspects of the Program and to our staff. A main aspect of the orientation is to prepare students to live independently in Kenya. To achieve this they are first introduced to our neighborhood where they learn how to orientate themselves and take care of their personal needs such as shopping, entertainment, etc. Safety and security are emphasized, not only through lectures and discussions but through field visits and real life experiences. Students also visit Nairobi's central business district on their own, use public transport and start practicing to engage with Kenyans one on one. Students learn Swahili, Kenya's national language and are prepared to aspects of cross-cultural living before they set off for their week's long rural homestay.

The Rural Agricultural Field Component:
The rural homestays enable you to live with Kenyan families and offer the opportunity to understand something of their traditions as well as the modern issues they face. They begin after a weeklong intensive orientation at the St. Lawrence University Study center in Karen. This is an opportunity to learn something about rural village life in Kenya. Your week in this small agricultural community will expose you to many issues and topics that will recur throughout the semester. Each student lives as a member of a family, shares in household duties, and gathers insights into questions that you will explore and discuss in a seminar at the end of the week. Given that almost 65% of Kenya's population lives in the rural areas, this component gives a window through which to see and start understanding much of Kenya's population and its livelihood.

Tanzania Field Study Component:
This field component focuses on the Hadza, one of a few communities that still practice hunting and gathering and live entirely off the land and do not practice any agriculture or keep livestock. Students spend 3 nights with the Hadza in the Yaeda Valley and immerse themselves in their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They join the Hadza women in a food-gathering excursion and go hunting with the Hadza men. They practice how to make fire by rubbing two sticks; dance and sing with the Hadza, learn how to make and use bows and arrows and, discuss with them their culture and the future of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the face of the accelerated development currently taking place in Tanzania.

Urban Study Component:
While doing their classes in Nairobi students spend three weeks living with an urban host family in Nairobi and many students maintain close family ties long after the homestays are over. These home stays offer an opportunity to learn about some urban Kenyan families' lifestyles and at the same time understand the main issues related to the city of Nairobi and its environment are introduced. Most of the homestay families have very close contact with their rural homes and this gives students an opportunity not only to compare rural-urban lives but also to see the processes of change and adaptation that urban-dwellers make because of their inclusion into the urban space.

Amboseli Field Study Component:
This component focuses on the socio-economic, and environmental factors responsible for changing the Maasai culture and pastoral lifestyle from pure nomadic pastoralism to semi-sedentary mixed agro-pastoralism in the Amboseli region. More recently, the region has seen a greater influx of non-Maasai immigrants and experienced a gradual shift from purely pastoral to mixed agro-pastoral economy. This shift, coupled with the increasing human-wildlife conflicts and, the introduction of community-based tourism have resulted in significant changes in the Maasai's pastoral lifestyle. We will examine the competition and conflicts over land, water, pasture and, natural resources. We will explore how the local Maasai manage their own wildlife sanctuaries, tourist lodges, campsites and, cultural tourism ventures. We will also examine the major conservation issues in the region. Students spend a night in a traditional Maasai homestead to engage our host community in many formal and informal discussions.

The Coastal Field Study Component:
The four days long coastal component takes place immediately after the pastoral field component. It aims at introducing the students to the Kenyan Coast and how the endogenous cultures have been influenced by Islam and Christianity. Students visit the Fort Jesus Museum, tour the old city of Mombasa, visit a historical sacred forest site of the endogenous people, visit the Krapf's Memorial Museum and, participate in a discussion about Islam with local men and women groups.

Independent Study Component:
The last four weeks of the program are devoted to an independent study, which is arranged individually according to each student's academic field of specialty and interest. Students carry out activities as instructed by a supervisor from the host organization and in doing so they get exposed to the daily work of a Kenyan organization, and if possible, to provide some small help to the organizations that kindly agree to host you. At the end of your independent study, you will write a final term paper for the St. Lawrence University Kenya Semester Program. The paper explores some aspects of Kenyan life in an analytical way, with special reference to the course themes, Culture, Environment and Development. It is not a research report on data collected during the course of the independent study.

Alumni Reflections

The impact of the KSP on students’ lives and careers is simply too great to quantify. Many have gone on to advanced degrees in African studies and for some, careers in Africa. Others credit their Kenya experience for giving them the confidence and skills to pursue more indirect careers in medicine, law, government service or business. Below are a few reflections from the nearly 2,000 KSP alumni on what their Kenya experience means to them. If you would like to learn more about how to build upon your KSP experience click here


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Coming Home

“I can safely say the KSP fundamentally changed the way I thought and helped me to figure out what I wanted to do in life, which is something every college student struggles with even after graduating.” 

After a semester in Kenya, students often come back to campus excited, overwhelmed and sometimes a bit unsure how to build on their amazing experiences in East Africa. Many would love a chance to learn more about Africa with the hope of maybe returning to Kenya in the future. Well St. Lawrence offers a number of opportunities to build on your experiences through course-work, research, and other professional opportunities. 

Courses and Research:

One of the best ways to discuss, process and build upon the Kenya SemesterProgram is through additional classes and/or research which allow students to examine an aspect ofKenyan society in greater depth. St. Lawrence has a strong tradition of offering interdisciplinary courses and research opportunities in African studies. Plus with roughly 100 students a year visiting studying abroad in Africa via the KSP, The France Program's Senegal Field component or through summer courses in Ethiopia students are very likely to encounter others on campus who are just as passionate about their abroad experience.  

African Studies Minor/ Major: Students returning from the KSP will need just one more African studies course to complete the African Studies Minor or one of the Combined Major options with Anthropology, Government, Economics or History. To complete the degree requirements for African studies, students will need to take a 400 level research seminar. Currently the African studies program offers one of these dual-listed research seminars each semester and there is also an opportunity to complete the requirements for a minor/combined major in African studies by applying to do an independent study. Faculty and alum of the KSP note how these courses/research opportunities have allowed a number of students to conduct further research associated with a direct experience they had in Kenya.

Travel Enrichment Grants are intended for students participating in SLU off-campus programs who are connecting an academic or personal/extra-curricular interest with study abroad or with intercultural experience within the U.S.

Travel Research Grants are intended for travel in connection with independent study and research on international or intercultural topics. Proposals normally support independent study that is grounded in prior academic course work; normally the fruits of this independent study will contribute to subsequent academic work on camp

SLU Fellowships: The St. Lawrence University Fellows program provides new opportunities for student intellectual growth by funding, with a $3,500 stipend, student research by 25-30 students per summer, each student with a faculty mentor. This is a great opportunity to apply before or after the KSP to conduct research on a Kenya related topic which could result in a potential SYE, honors thesis or even published work in the future.

Fulbright: This prestigious U.S. Government program awards hundreds of year long research fellowships annually to U.S. students wishing to pursue post-graduate research abroad. Graduating seniors who are U.S. citizens can apply during the fall of their senior year to spend up to 1 full year abroad conducting research after graduation. The program is highly competitive and takes a great deal of advanced planning and work to put together a competitive proposal. Those interested in applying for a Fulbright to Kenya should contact Dr. Matt Carotenuto to discuss the application process and potential research ideas (its never too early to start thinking about this). 

Professional Opportunities:

Many KSP alums have used the skills and lessons they learned in Kenya in a variety of career paths. Some have pursued post-graduate work in African studies leading to careers in academia, international development and government service. Other alumni credit the cross-cultural communication skills and eye opening experiences on the KSP to their success in fields of business, education, finance, journalism or medicine. In the end the KSP allows each student to experience a variety of diverse cultural settings where students often learn as much about themselves as they do about Kenya. To learn more about the diverse paths of many of our alums please check out our alumni profiles, read the "Habari Gani" section in the St. Lawrence Magazine and visit our Facebook page.

In the past several years, a number of students have used their KSP experience to land internships with The Boma Project, led student trips back to East Africa via  Putney Student Travel or Overland, or been selected for a Peace Corpsassignment in Africa. Whatever your interests we encourage you to talk with your academic advisers and Career Services about the variety of ways you can professionally build on your KSP experience.  

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Frequently Asked Questions

1.    Is the Kenya Program offered in both the Fall and Spring?

Yes the Kenya Program runs each semester and since 2005 we have also offered a number of summer courses

2.    Do I have to be an SLU Student to Apply?

No, we welcome applications from other colleges and universities. In fact about 1/3 of the students are typically from other colleges and over 600 non-SLU students from nearly 30 different universities have participated on the Kenya program since its inception.

3.    Are there any prerequisites to apply?

Yes, students must take at least one African Studies course (AFS) prior to going. Among the courses commonly taught at St. Lawrence we recommend looking into one or more of the following:

SWAH 101/AFS 100- Elementary Kiswahili

HIST 108/AFS 101- Introduction to African Studies

ANTH/AFS 225- Peoples and Cultures of Africa

GOVT/AFS 230- African Politics

Note: Students from outside of SLU are encouraged to contact the program's faculty coordinator to discuss potential substitute courses at their home campus.

4.    Isn't the Kenya Program more for students interested in Conservation Biology or Environmental Studies?

No. While it is true that Biology/Environmental studies majors can receive credit towards their major, the Kenya program is open to students of all academic interests. Courses and field components explore the Kenyan environment, politics, history, economic development, culture and many other aspects of Kenyan life. Plus the Independent Study during the last month of the semester allows students to be placed with an organization directly related to their fields of interest.

5.    What courses can I take in Kenya?

  • Two required courses during the semester:

1.    1 unit of Swahili

2.    1.5 unit Core course: AFS 337 Culture, Environment and Development in East Africa (Can be counted for African Studies, Anthropology, Environmental Studies or Global Studies).

  • A Choice of Two Elective Courses (Courses vary by semester but commonly include)

1.    AFS/BIO/ENVS/ 242 Biodiversity Conservation and Management in East Africa

2.    AFS/GOVT/SOC 326 Critical Issues in Socio-Economic Development in Kenya

3.    AFS/ANTH/GNDR 247 Gender Issues in Traditional and Modern Kenya

4.    AFS/HIST 354 Introduction to the History of Modern Kenya

6.    What is the Independent Study (IDS)?

The last four weeks of the program are devoted to an independent study (IDS), which is arranged individually according to each student's academic field of specialty and interest. Students carry out activities as instructed by a supervisor from the host organization and in doing so they get exposed to the daily work of a Kenyan organization, and if possible, to provide some small help to the organizations that kindly agree to host you. At the end of your independent study, you will write a final paper analyzing your experience in connection with the core course. Given the range of contacts the Kenya program has developed over the years, a wide variety of options are available. Here are a few examples of recent IDS placements to give you a sense of the range of options.

1.    Worked with NGO Soft Power Education (Jinja, Uganda)

2.    Volunteered at the Sally Test Pediatric Care Center (Eldoret, Kenya)

3.    Assisted with Turtle Conversation on the Kenyan Coast

4.    Organized a Fashion for Peace show in Nairobi

5.    Worked with the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya

6.    Coached Soccer with the Mathare Youth Sports Association

7.    Etc......there are just too many options to list.

7.    What if I'm not interested in a career in African Studies, is the Kenya program for me?

While the KSP has been a launching pad for many professional careers in African related fields, the experience has imparted countless other life lessons on alums throughout the years. Many alumni credit the cross-cultural communication skills and eye opening experiences on the KSP to their success in fields of business, education, finance, journalism, medicine and government service. One alumnus (Christopher Coons) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 from the state of Delaware and now sits on the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations as the Chair of the Sub-Committee on African Affairs.  

In the end the KSP allows each student to experience a variety of diverse cultural settings where students often learn as much about themselves as they do about Kenya. To learn more about the diverse paths of many of our alums please check out our alumni profiles, read the "Habari Gani" section in the St. Lawrence Magazine and visit our Facebook page

8.    Who can I talk more to about Kenya?

The first place to look is the CIIS office in Carnegie Hall. Assistant Director of Off-Campus Programs Drew Pynchon is an alumnus of the KSP and helps coordinate the student peer advisors for Kenya. The current faculty coordinator is Wendi Haugh from the anthropology department. Many faculty associated with the African studies program have an intimate knowledge of the KSP as well as other KSP alums turn SLU staff members such as Assistant Director of Admissions Lynsday LaBarge

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Program Faculty and Staff