- Alumni Newsletter - November 2009
- Alumni Newsletter - September 2009
- Alumni Newsletter - May 2009
- Alumni Newsletter - March 2009
Welcome to the Alumni of the Month series. This month's alumni of the month is Dr. John Ong'ech. Please click on the title to read more about Dr. Ong'ech.
Mombasa Alumni Hold First Meeting
On December 5, 2008 State Department alumni gathered in Mombasa for the first time to map out ways of establishing an alumni chapter on the coast. They agreed to work towards establishing a Mombasa alumni chapter by mid 2009.
They were delighted to meet each other, and one by one each recollected his/her experiences in the United States which for young and old were amazingly similar – that of culture shock.
Many recounted how their perspective on America had changed after their exchange recalling how they had initially not wanted to go to the U.S. even after applying for the programs on their own volition but found it was an eye opening experience. They were unanimous in saying they would encourage more people to jump at the opportunity when it arose.
The almost 80% of them who are involved in community work, explained how their experiences with American social systems had impacted their work back home. One of them, who is HIV positive explained how her experience in the more open American society had helped her become more confident and even come out more amongst her people.
Kenyatta University is Kenya's First Fulbright Alumni Chapter
Kenyatta University, on the outskirts of Nairobi, became the first institution to establish a Fulbright alumni chapter on November 19, 2008. At a gathering to mark the occasion, University Vice Chancellor Prof. Olive Mugenda and Embassy Public Affairs Officer T. J Dowling, addressed the assembled Fulbrighters, who were delighted that they would have a formal institution to share their American experiences with colleagues both inside and outside the university community.
The Vice Chancellor commended the Embassy for its continued support in awarding grants to KU faculty and bringing American Fulbrighters to teach at the University. The PAO paid a courtesy call on the Vice Chancellor before the function during which Prof. Mugenda nostalgically reminisced about her own college experiences as a student at Iowa State University. She also stated that the Fulbright alumni gave her much needed support in her administrative duties at the university.
In his remarks to the faculty, the PAO reiterated how valuable all such exchange programs were in developing far more than merely academic relations between Kenya and the United States, noting the Vice-Chancellor’s own history as well as that of the new President-elect’s father, Barack Hussein Obama (Sr.), who was a beneficiary of the Kennedy-Mboya academic airlifts of the early 1960’s. He thanked the Vice Chancellor for her support which led to the success in launching the KU alumni chapter.
Speech by Prof. Eric Masinde Aseka at the launch of the Kenyatta University Chapter of the Kenya Fulbright Humphrey Alumni Association
The Fulbright Experience enables scholars to acquire insights and contacts that are valuable for their universities and the larger society. The Fulbright Alumni make up an impressive group of achievers in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education and athletics. It is evident that many of these insights and contacts have largely remained untapped. There is need for an organizational framework to harness these links and the synergies that can be developed from them.
There is need for Alumni of the various Fulbright programs to be engrained in the Fulbright tradition. This is critical for building a strong Fulbright constituency at an institutional and national level. The Kenyatta University Fulbright beneficiaries are set to form a Kenyatta University Chapter of the Kenya Fulbright Alumni Association. There is need to keep an accurate roster of Alumni and recruit members into the Kenyatta University Chapter of the Kenya Fulbright Alumni Association. There are many Alumni chapters world over with whom Kenyatta University Fulbright Alumni scholars can link up in the formation of a global network of Fulbright Alumni Associations. There are approximately 70 of these associations world-wide.
There is need to create a framework within which interactions can be fostered, the kind which enhance the intellectual and professional development of the alumni through organizing of workshops, seminars, symposia and other self-development programs. There are active Fulbright programs that are strewn far and wide in more than 155 countries of the world. There is need for Kenyatta University Fulbright Chapter of the national Alumni Association to be provided with an opportune organizational juncture to create and be supported with opportunities to build and harness their Fulbright experience. That is why we are elated to have you grace this occasion Madam Vice-Chancellor and the PAO American Embassy Mr. T. J. Dowling. This is inspiring to us as Fulbrighters.
Somewhat in retrospect, the Kenyatta University Alumni Chapter is inspired by the Fulbright vision of working towards and realizing a peaceful world. The Chapter embraces the mission of peace making through cross-cultural understanding by seeking:
- To facilitate relationships among former Fulbright grantees
- To provide hospitality and enrichment activities for visiting Fulbright students, scholars and teachers during their stay in the country.
There are currently 22 members of whom a good number are here today. In view of the need to entrench the Fulbright tradition in their intellectual and professional work, they constitute a coterie of scholars who are poised to constitute a steering committee and the writing of the Articles of Association in the short-term. From here they will proceed to organize for a series of activities including organizing of public lectures, seminars/ conferences and annual get-togethers among other activities in the long-term.
It is exhilarating to note that for us who have had the privilege of being enlisted in a Fulbright program, and gleaning from our enriching intellectual tours in other institutions abroad and the experiences therefrom, becoming a Fulbrighter means entering into a diverse community of accomplished individuals. In view of the insights, skills and aptitudes gained, that is why there is need to strengthen our operational basis in view of the immense intellectual capital as well as social capital that we have accumulated as part of the memorable Fulbright itinerary. Loaded with fundamental harvests of intellectual encounter, establishing and buttressing a network of Kenyan Alumni and visiting American scholars is deemed necessary in order to strengthen the ties that have historically united Kenya and the United States. We are certain that there are many ways to get involved in the Fulbright community and intellectual infrastructure of outreach and induction. This will inevitably spur individuals' and groups' enthusiasm and lines of action to reach out to home countries' communities in a better poise to participate in various Fulbright Alumni Associations' activities and networking initiatives.
That is why it is strongly felt that there is need to set up an organizational basis of initiating and organizing such intellectual forays including underwriting social and volunteer activities for the benefit of present and future Kenyan scholars and international scholars. These may be done in a well-orchestrated panoply of relations characterized by partnership and collaboration with government institutions, community organizations and NGOs. There is need to create a social infrastructure for Fulbright Alumni mobilization to enable them participate in activities organized by Fulbright Associations in other countries. Whether it is for career development and possibilities, new grant opportunities, travel advice or post-grant activities, Fulbrighters are there to help each other.
These initiatives are necessary given that Fulbright Alumni Associations exist in more than 70 countries and are already involved in wide ranging activities of professional and intellectual value. These associations serve a supportive and motivational role in invigorating and revitalizing the work and endeavors of current and former Fulbrighters. Since its inception, there have been close to 300,00 beneficiaries of the Fulbright program. Fulbright scholars are chosen through a rigorous process and are awarded their respective grants based on their academic merit and leadership potential. In view of the remarkable promise they embody they are given an opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared issues with their hosts. Under these circumstances, for them the Fulbright program creates a unique context for developing fundamental social insights as well as acquiring a perceptive understanding of US views and values that are useful in the promotion of bi-national cooperation as well as the nurturing of open-minded and thoughtful leaders. These are the sorts of leaders who can be relied on to work with others in harmony and mutual respect in addressing common issues and problems.
The primary fountain of inspiration emanates from the insights and socio-political engagements of J. William Fulbright. Fulbright was indeed an accomplished scholar and Senator who initiated a peace oriented resolution in the House of Representatives to which he was elected in 1943 that ostensibly encouraged US participation in what became the United Nations. On being elected to the US Senate in 1945, he became one of the most influential and known members of Senate. His Fulbright legislation establishing the Fulbright Program, signed into law in 1946, was a major feat that has impacted the intellectual and socio-political terrains of many countries.
Fulbright was to serve as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman from 1959 to 1974 setting the record of being the longest serving chairman. In 1993, President Bill Clinton presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Better known for his work in building programs and institutions for peace-making and cross-cultural understanding, he was a man who believed in the value of education. For him, instead of war with its destructiveness, education was the foundation for developing leaders and active citizens, and for solving future political conflicts through rational and humane means.
He will be remembered as an extraordinary institution builder who also believed in political institutions as forums where solutions for complex problems should be sought through reasonable debate and negotiations. As such, his vision was of a world peace and non-violent means of resolving conflicts.
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