Scholarship and Friendships in Kenya – Jay L. Wenger – Kenya 2011

Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) is a quality, but less familiar university in western Kenya, about a 6-hour drive from Nairobi. MMUST never hosted a Fulbright Scholar until I arrived in January 2011 for a 5-month assignment. What an honor!

 

My assignment was to work closely with two Kenyan professors to teach and conduct research in psychology. I knew that we would work well together because we had cordial, respectful communication before I arrived but I never imagined how we would become great friends – friendships that would extend to our families and friendships that would continue to the present.

 

In Kenya, we collaborated on two research projects. Both involved creative, social-cognitive methodologies designed to evaluate the subtle, unconscious attitudes of human participants. One project evaluated unconscious attitudes related to religion and the other evaluated unconscious attitudes related to health. Before I left the US, I obtained approval for both projects from my home institution, and when I arrived in Kenya, I obtained the appropriate approval from the Ministry of Education in Nairobi.

 

To collect data for both projects, we arranged to have groups of student volunteers meet in classroom settings somewhere on the MMUST campus. We asked the volunteers to complete a variety of tasks in which they used pencils and paper to group words into categories as quickly as possible. We used a stopwatch to monitor time. It worked. The three of us then teamed to write corresponding manuscripts and now both projects are published in international scientific journals. My collaborators are convinced that this research, which was unique for Kenya, should become my professional legacy. We’ll see.

 

I treasure the memories I have of my Kenyan colleagues and friends. My wife was living with me in Kenya. Along with working professionally with these colleagues, my wife and I spent quite a bit of cordial time with each of them. We spent time in their homes interacting with family members, sharing meals together, and listening to stories. We also traveled with each of them to visit a variety of other places in western Kenya.

 

Jay L. Wenger – Fulbright to Kenya 2011

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