Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
Kenya The Kenya-SLU Connection
“My time in Kenya with the KSP has paved my entire way in life; bringing me to where I am right now in my career, and molding me into the person I have come to be.”
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 Tea, Africa Soma, The Boma Project, Ecosandals, 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.
“Living among the rural Luo communities and recording their stories made me feel that I was getting at the heart of what professional research was about and I have had a true passion for studying African history ever since.”