Kenya Program Details

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, over 2,000 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. 
  • 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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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. 

“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.” 

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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. St. Lawrence offers a number of opportunities to build on your experiences through coursework, research, and other professional opportunities. 

Courses and Research:

One of the best ways to discuss, process and build upon the Kenya Semester Program is through additional classes and/or research which allow students to examine an aspect of Kenyan 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 studying abroad in Africa via the KSP, the program in Bordeaux's Senegal field component, or through summer courses in Ghana and 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 an 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

CIIS Fellows: The CIIS Fellows program provides new opportunities for student intellectual growth by funding student research over the 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.

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 Corps assignment in Africa. Whatever your interests we encourage you to talk with your academic advisers and the Center for Career Excellence 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 pre-requisites 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 suited 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.   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.  Karen Smith, Director of Off-Campus Programs, advises about the program. The current faculty coordinator is Dr. Matt Carotenuto from the anthropology department. Many faculty associated with the African Studies program also have an intimate knowledge of the KSP.

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Learn More About Kenya

Students on the KSP are introduced to a wide variety of contemporary Kenyan issues. From engagement with diverse cultures and environments to learning about Kenyan history, politics, economic development and popular culture the KSP facilitates a rich experiential learning atmosphere. Students interested in learning more about Kenya before they go will find the below links and sources useful in preparing their applications and as part of their orientation.  These can also provide a useful starting point for students to explore ways to build upon their experiences back on campus through additional course work and/or independent research. To see maps of Kenya click here.

*Find all of the below texts at the St. Lawrence ODY Library or via Connect NY. 

Current Events

African based media sources are some of the best ways to learn about contemporary Kenyan issues. The two daily national newspapers The Standardand The Daily Nation are read by a wide spectrum of Kenyan society. In fact, many alums of the program would say that Kenyans are much more "news conscious" than their average American counterpart and these papers are a great way to prepare for the current event discussions you may have in Kenya.

History, Politics and Society

David Anderson. Histories of the hanged: the dirty war in Kenya and the End of Empire. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).

Daniel Branch, Kenya: between hope and despair, 1963-2011. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).

Daniel Branch, Nic Cheeseman, Leigh Gardner (eds). Our Turn to Eat: Kenyan Politics Since 1950. (London: Lit Verlag, 2010).

Tabitha Kanogo. African Womanhood in Colonial Kenya. (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005).

Kenneth King. Jua kali Kenya: change & development in an informal economy, 1970-95 (London: James Currey,1996).

Alamin M. Mazrui and Ibrahim Noor Shariff. The Swahili: idiom and identity of an African people. (Trenton: African World Press, 1994).

Godwin R. Murunga and Shadrack Wanjala Nasong'o (eds). Kenya: the struggle for democracy. (London, Zed, 2007).

Bethwell Ogot and William Ochieng (eds). Decolonization and Independence in Kenya (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1995) 

William Ochieng (ed). A Modern History of Kenya 1895-1980. (Nairobi: Evans Brothers, 1989).

W.R. Ochiengʹ and R.M. Maxon (eds). An economic history of Kenya. (Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers, 1992).

Claire Robertson and Berida Ndambuki "We only come here to struggle:" stories from Berida's life. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000)---also has an accompanying documentary called Second Face: Berida's Lives.

Neal Sobania. Cultures and Customs of Kenya. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2003).

Thomas Spear and Richard WallerBeing Maasai: ethnicity and identity in East Africa. (London: James Currey, 1993).

Literature and Popular Culture

The Kamusi Project: Billed as the internet's "Living Swahili Dictionary" this website offers useful help in translating Swahili to English and English to Swahili.

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir. African art and the colonial encounter : inventing a global commodity. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007).

Meja Mwangi. Going Down River Road. (London: Heinemann, 1976).  

Wangari Maathai. Unbowed: a Memoir. (New York: Anchor Books, 2007) *Also recommended is the biographical film of Maathai, Kenya's 1st Nobel Prize winner, titled-Taking Root.

Mwenda Ntarangwi. East African hip hop: youth culture and globalization (Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2009) (Note- Dr. Ntarangwi is a former director of the KSP).

Margaret Ogola. The River and the Source. (Nairobi: Focus Books, 1994).

Ngugi Wa Thiongo. (Kenya's most famous author of fiction, check out his website and browse the ODY library for a number of his novels as they are a great way to gain some cultural insight into Kenyan society)

Binyavanga Wainaina. One day I will write about this place: a memoir. (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2011). 

Environment, Tourism and Conservation

David Anderson and Richard Grove (eds). Conservation in Africa: People, Policies, and Practice. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

Edward M. Bruner. Culture on tour: ethnographies of travel (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2005).

Stuart Coupe, Viv Lewis, Zadoc Ogutu, and Cathy Watson. Living with wildlife : sustainable livelihoods for park-adjacent communities in Kenya. (London: ITDG, 2002).

Kenya: atlas of our changing environment (Nairobi: United Nations Environment Program, 2009).

T.R. McClanahan and T.P. Young (eds). East African ecosystems and their conservation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Edward Steinhart. Black poachers, white hunters: a social history of hunting in colonial Kenya. (London: James Currey, 2006).

Barbara Thomas-Slayter and Dianne Rocheleau, Gender, environment, and development in Kenya: a grassroots perspective (Boulder: Lynn Rienner, 1995).

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