Coming Home: On Campus Research and Internships

Coming home, many alumni of the KSP wonder how they can integrate this life changing experience into their academic and even professional lives. Often the best way to process your semester abroad, can be through a directed internship or independent research projects where you can put your experience to work. Take a look at the two students below and see how they turned their semester in Kenya into a prestigious summer internships and research fellowship. Hongera (Congratulations) Annie and Megan, as we hope more students follow your example—-Matt Carotenuto (Associate Professor of History and Coordinator of African Studies St. Lawrence.

Annie Wilcox ’17 (KSP Spring 2016)
Government Major, French and African Studies Minor
Summer Intern: Brookings Institution’s African Security Initiative 

Annie Wilcox '17 (KSP Spring 2016)--Summer internship at Brookings

Annie Wilcox ’17 (KSP Spring 2016)–Summer internship at Brookings

Having just returned from a networking trip to DC, I arrived in Nairobi with internships on my mind. I was looking for summer internships in Washington, DC when Dr. Carotenuto mentioned the Africa Security Initiative internship at the Brookings Institution which was co-sponsored by St. Lawrence. It was an ideal opportunity.

I had never taken in-depth courses on terrorism or security issues facing sub-Saharan Africa while at St. Lawrence, but my liberal arts education gave me important tools to tackle these complex issues while at Brookings. The Kenya Semester Program specifically exposed me to a number of security issues that I researched at Brookings, including corruption, gang violence and the security problems that arise out of poor infrastructure, among others. I was better able to understand how the issues translated into the countries I was researching at Brookings.

The Africa Security Initiative is a two-year old project organized by the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings. While at Brookings, I worked with Senior Fellow Mike O’Hanlon on both research and events for the Initiative. Throughout the summer, I worked on a project that examines innovative security practices in cities around sub-Saharan Africa. I looked at various community policing models most notably in Rwanda. I helped plan a panel on President Obama’s role in African Security and Development. Dr. Carotenuto spoke about his research on Obama’s Luo identity. Sarah Minogue, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch, spoke and Brooking’s Senior Fellow Mike O’Hanlon moderated. The panel expressed concern that Kenya may be slipping back into authoritarianism. Finally, I was able to contribute to a blog post on Brooking’s blog Order from Chaos.

The benefit of working at an institution like Brookings is the constant access to information. Brookings has five research programs that host events on a range of topics: Foreign Policy, Metropolitan Policy, Governance Studies, Economic Studies and Global Economy and Development. Throughout the summer, I went to a number of events hosted both by my program and the other four. Some particularly notable events that I attended were the IMF Regional Outlook on sub-Saharan Africa, Inclusive Growth in Cities with OECD Secretary Ángel Gurría, and The Battle over the Border: Public Opinion on Cultural Change at the forefront of the Election. The Ambassadors from Uganda and Rwanda led a discussion on advancing financial and digital inclusion in their countries. Kenya was ranked first among the twenty-six countries the Financial and Digital Inclusion Project studied because of country-wide availability and access. My experience at Brookings reinforced so much of what I witnessed in Kenya, which was a really positive way for me to reintegrate myself after my semester abroad.

My summer at Brookings helped me understand the interplay between security and development work. The Kenya Semester Program and my internship at Brookings reinforced each other well. I carried out research on issues that I saw in play in Nairobi which added depth to my experiences abroad. One of the most prominent issues was corruption in the police force and how it affects all other aspects of security for citizens because of a lack of accountability for crime.

With senior year only two weeks away, I feel that my back-to-back experiences in Kenya and at Brookings have given me a better vision of where I would like to go after graduation. I am hoping the knowledge I gained and the people I met at Brookings and in Kenya will lead me back to working in Nairobi. I look forward to seeing where the experiences take me.

Megan Kloeckner ’17 (KSP Spring 2015)
Anthro/African Studies Combined Major

Megan on her rural homestay in Nyeri

Megan on her rural homestay in Nyeri

After I completed my semester in Kenya on St. Lawrence’s Kenya Semester Program (KSP), I found I still had so many questions, and was still very intrigued both by the country and its people. Though I know that traveling to Kenya was the ultimate learning experience, and that I have access to many engaging courses on SLU’s campus, I wanted to supplement my study abroad experience with a more personal study that focused on the issues I found interesting. St. Lawrence is wonderful in that it offers a few ways to go about independent research: students can complete a semester or yearlong independent project under the guidance of a professor, or there are a few research-focused fellowships for which students can apply.

The shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu

The shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu

I chose to apply to the St. Lawrence University Fellowship for the summer of 2016, and fortunately my project, Human Security in Luoland: Political Bias and Development Progress in Kisumu, Kenya, was selected. Under the guidance of Professor Matt Carotenuto, I spent nine weeks on campus conducting my research. This involved traveling to Syracuse University to collect primary data from their collection of Kenya National Archive documents, reading countless academic articles and other scholarly sources, assembling all the data and trying to formulate an argument out of it, and finally collecting my thoughts and composing a final research paper. The Fellowship also requires that each recipient construct a poster presentation that will be given to visitors on SLU’s Family Weekend each fall. While this is a great way to share one’s findings, Professor Carotenuto encouraged me to apply to Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies Undergraduate Research Conference as a way to further develop highlight my work, and also so that I may experience what it is like to attend and present at an academic conference.

The Fellowship project was the largest research project I’ve ever done, and while at times it was a bit overwhelming, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated my experience. I would definitely recommend completing an independent research project or University Fellowship to build upon one’s KSP experience, as it enabled me to delve further into an issue that had intrigued me when I was in Kenya. In addition to the Fellowship, I plan on using some of the information I gathered during my summer fellowship to inform my Anthropology and African Studies SYE project this year. So not only was I able to grow as a student from my KSP experience, but I have also been able to apply my experience to other academic pursuits as well, ones that will enable me to (hopefully!) have two polished academic research papers by the time I graduate. Looking more into the future, I plan to include my research in my Grad School application, as having research experience under one’s belt typically helps in application acceptance. Of course I will always appreciate my Kenyan experience through photographs and memories, but now I’ll also be able to see it as a stepping stone in my academic—and hopefully professional—career.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Protected by WP Anti Spam