The Engaging Africa Initiative
Celebrating the St. Lawrence Tradition of African Studies Excellence in Canton and Abroad
In January 1972, St. Lawrence sent its first student group to East Africa. This pilot trip to Kenya blossomed into the Kenya Semester Program by 1974 and helped establish SLU as a national leader in study abroad in Africa. Since 1972, over 2200 students have participated on our semester and summer programs in Kenya, with hundreds more studying in Africa via the France Program’s component in Senegal or summer courses in Ethiopia and other parts of the continent. With multiple opportunities to study Africa issues via one of our vibrant off-campus programs, many students come back and continue to engage with Africa through courses and research opportunities sponsored by the African Studies Program.
2014 marked the 40th anniversary of our Kenya semester program and provided an important time to assess SLU’s future engagement with Africa more broadly and examine the ways we can continue a traditional of excellence in African Studies both on and off-campus. As a national leader of integrating African Studies into the liberal arts, St. Lawrence embarked on an ambitious campaign to invest in Africa at SLU by creating a permanent restricted endowment called “Engaging Africa” which offers annual support for our efforts moving forward.
Since the 2014 reunion our faculty and students have been busy with a number of new initiatives. For instance we have piloted new summer courses in Kenya and Rwanda, launched an official blog for the Kenya program, helped students present at prestigious research conferences and entered into a three year partnership with the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C just to name a few.
With a tradition of building mutually beneficial relationships with our African partners, we aim to continue to expand opportunities for SLU students to engage with Africa through coursework, internships and research both on and off-campus. The Engaging Africa endowment continues to grow with your support and will provide annual support to help us achieve the following goals.
Alumni support has already helped students participate in life changing opportunities since we launched Engaging Africa. Help us reach a goal of more than a million dollars in endowed support by the Kenya program's 50th anniversary in 2024 to ensure St. Lawrence remains a national leader in African engagement.
Engaging Africa Goals:
Scholarships for Summer Programs in Africa: Summer courses appeal to students who for academic, athletic or other co-curricular reasons cannot spend a full semester away from campus. These courses also provide an early opportunity for first year students to study abroad or a chance to compare experiences with multiple sites around the globe. Over the last 10 years our summer programs in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal and Rwanda have provided unique opportunities for students and we plan to pilot new courses in West and East Africa in the coming years. While these courses offer fantastic experiences for our students, they fall outside of the traditional financial aid calendar and are cost prohibitive for a sizeable portion of the student body. Thus with additional scholarship aid to support summer courses in Africa, we can continue to offer a number of exciting options each year and ensure that students who cannot afford to spend a full semester abroad will still have an opportunity to experience studying in Africa.
- Reciprocity: African Students at SLU: One of the ways St. Lawrence distinguishes itself in our commitment to African studies is our efforts to not only send students to Africa, but to recruit Africa’s best and brightest to SLU. Since the early 1980s, annual scholarships have been awarded to Kenyan students with dozens more students from across the African continent coming to SLU via the United World Colleges or other scholarship opportunities. Many of our African graduates have gone onto distinguished careers across the continent, bringing their talents back to serve the needs of their own communities. Thus we aim to raise additional scholarship support for African students to attend SLU to ensure that St. Lawrence is part of nurturing the next generation of African leaders.
C.L.R. James African Studies Lecture: For nearly two decades, SLU has hosted a signature African studies lecture on campus. Typically drawing over 100 students, faculty and members of the community to engage with a distinguished scholar, the CLR James Lecture provides a public opportunity to bring the campus community together to discuss African issues. We plan to build on this important tradition by permanently endowing the CLR James Lecture and ensuring that SLU can bring world renowned scholars of Africa to campus each year to highlight the broader importance of African issues to the wider community.
Kenya Program Internships: The independent study portion of the Kenya program provides an important opportunity for students to spend the last month of the semester working with local organizations across the country. From marine wildlife conservation on the Kenyan coast, to work with the Federation of Women Lawyers in Nairobi, our 40 years of institutional history in Kenya has opened up countless opportunities to study contemporary Kenyan issues outside the classroom. In recent years an increasing number of important placements have become available in Uganda, Tanzania and even Rwanda. Thus to take advantage of our growing contacts throughout East Africa we plan to support an expansion of the independent study options on the Kenya program so that students can take advantage of placements across the region and complete meaningful internships that will benefit their personal and professional development.
How Can You Help
Since 1972, our alumni have embodied St. Lawrence’s reputation as a national leader in African Studies and many young graduates use their St. Lawrence backgrounds to connect professionally to the African continent in many ways. Distinguished graduates have gone on to found important development organizations, lead environmental conservation initiatives, and continued to invest a great deal of time and energy on projects across Africa. Others credit their African experiences as a fundamental part of their personal and professional development in business, medicine and a number of fields far from the continent. We know how important these memories and experiences are to our alumni and thus we hope you will consider supporting this important initiative to ensure countless others will benefit from a vibrant St. Lawrence connection with Africa for many years to come.
Gifts can be made by going to this link: https://alumni.stlawu.edu/make-an-online-gift2 , clicking on the best donation plan for you, filling out the information and selecting “Engaging Africa Fund” in the designation drop down box. If you would like to learn more about giving options e.g., pledging over multiple years or setting up an individual endowed fund, please contact Barb Knauf, University Advancement, at email@example.com or call at 315-229-1847.