Kenya Conference Focuses on Collaborative Research Opportunities and Community Programs
An international conference on “Promoting Justice and Peace: University/Community Collaborative Initiatives” was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from June 18-21, 2013, sponsored by Loyola University Chicago and the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). This unique interactive conference brought together more than 150 invited leaders from universities, community organizations, nonprofits, and business to share best practices and ideas for multidisciplinary research projects and collaborative community initiatives that can provide education, resources, access and opportunity for those living in poverty or in remote or underserved areas. Student leaders from seven African universities and other community service groups also participated in the conference. The conference tracks focused on Education, Environment, Health/Medicine, Entrepreneurship, Technology/Media, and Interfaith Initiatives with panels of academics and grassroots practitioners. Loyola faculty and staff making panel presentations and conducting workshops at the conference included Regina Conway-Phillips, Niehoff School of Nursing; Patricia Kay Felkins, School of Communication (SOC); James Garbarino, Psychology Department; John Goheen, SOC; Kim Williamson, Department of Biology; Jamason Chen, SOC Manager of Technology; and Susan Clarke, Assistant Director for Research Development, Office of Research Services. Jackie Ader, a graduate student in the School of Social Work and the Center for the Human Rights of Children, was also a panelist. Other graduate students participating in the conference were Virginia Rivera and Connie Johnson. Dr. Patricia Kay Felkins co-chaired the conference committee. The Loyola Africa Affinity Group planned and developed this conference initiative with the Centre for Social Justice and Ethics at CUEA. Msgr. Dr. Pius Rutechura, Vice-Chancellor of CUEA, welcomed the participants and congratulated Loyola University and those at CUEA who made the conference possible. Some of the educational leaders participating in the international event were Fr. Michael Schultheis SJ, President of the Catholic University of South Sudan; Fr. Joseph Oduor Afulo SJ, Principal, Hekima College; Genevive Mwayuli, Dean, Faculty of Science, CUEA; Elias Mokua Nyatete, Director, Jesuit Hakimani Center; Rev. Fredrick Mvumbi, Dean, Arts & Social Sciences, CUEA; Elias Omondi Opongo SJ, Director of the Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations; and Margaret Nduta Githae, Head of Health Sciences Department, Regina Pacis University College. Other prominent speakers included Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, Director, IBM Research Center-Africa; Mary Getui, Chair of the Kenya National AIDS Control Council; ; G.W. Otim-Nape, Director, Africa Innovations Institute; Sr. Mary Owens, Director, Nyumbani Institute; Benjamin Makai, Manager Public Sector and Community Solutions, Safaricom; Kaburu M’Ribu, Secretary, Kenya National Farmers Federation; and Sr. Florence Muia, founder of Upendo Village in Kenya and a former Loyola graduate student. Several plans for research collaborations and community initiatives grew out of the conference and a series of multidisciplinary meetings that followed. These include a child and maternal health proposal that will encompass research, education and cooperative projects with local communities; an entrepreneurship training program developed by MBA students aimed at recent graduates and unemployed youth; and a social justice-themed film festival to be held at CUEA in summer 2014. Faculty from the SOC are consulting with CUEA faculty about the curriculum for a Communication and Media degree program, which is scheduled to begin in January 2014. SOC faculty are also helping to design CUEA’s new digital media center, which will include a convergence media studio, radio station, editing suite, digital resources and archives, and a collaboration and innovation center for multidisciplinary international research projects. This conference created linkages for new collaborative research projects for Loyola faculty and graduate students and unique grassroots opportunities for community projects, fieldwork and internships. The CUEA Media Centre will provide a resource base and production facility for Loyola faculty interested in research and other projects in East Africa, and valuable archives for medical, environmental, economic, and social research in collaboration with African scholars. The conference committee and the faculty and staff who participated express their thanks to the following Loyola offices, schools and departments for support of the conference: the Office of the President, the Provost’s Office for Social Justice Initiatives, the Graduate School, the Office of International Initiatives, the School of Communication, the Niehoff School of Nursing, and the Center for the Human Rights of Children (CHRC). The complete program, selected PowerPoint presentations, and edited videos of panels and presentations will be available in September on the conference website at http://www.justicepeace.org.