Avila Now

September 14, 2022

Avila University Welcomes 2022 Activist-in-Residence

Mary Kinyanjui, Ph.D.
Mary Kinyanjui, Ph.D..

After a few challenging years of policy changes and the pandemic, Avila is proud to welcome a special guest from Nairobi, Kenya – Mary Kinyanjui, Ph.D. as the Activist-in-Residence (AIR) this fall, as well as the Truman Lecture Series guest speaker. The Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence (BIPN) hosts a grassroots peace activist at Avila University for a time of reflection, recharging, networking, academic engagement, and sharing with our campus and local communities. 

“After all of the barriers with the visa process, we were excited about the opportunity to select Mary. We look forward to re-establishing the Activist in Residence program,” said Coordinator for Buchanan Initiative for Peace & Nonviolence, Kaliyah Meriwether

The objectives of the AIR program are to:

  • Inform our campus and the broader community of peace and nonviolence issues from a global perspective
  • Inspire students and others to become more involved in social activism related to peace and nonviolence
  • Facilitate conversation and exchange of ideas between the activist and members of the peacebuilding community in Kansas City 
  • Work with our campus to envision our role in issues of peace, social justice, and nonviolence
  • Provide the activist with time and creative space to reflect, explore, and plan for the future of their work

The AIR is consistent with Avila University’s recognition of the “worth, dignity, and potential of each human being” and its mission to educate “lifelong learners who make meaningful contributions to the global community.” “My goal is to share my activist experiences with like-minded people at Avila as well as learn from Avila’s activities,” said Kinyanjui.

Kinyanjui will be the Keynote speaker for the Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture Series, guest lecture in classes, meet with Avila community members, and collaborate with local Kansas City organizations. The planning process is ongoing as we continue to seek opportunities for her.

“I will bring the ideas of self-reliance and solidarity. I will also bring ideas for using non-traditional methods in gathering data from the margins, such as archival research, song and dance, proverbs, and riddles. I will also bring the idea of making the margins visible,” said Kinyanjui.

Kinyanjui has widespread experience in grassroots organizing. She is self-driven and interested in seeing a change in our society. She holds a doctorate in geography from the University of Cambridge, UK., and a master’s in geography from Kenyatta University. 

Kinyanjui is a former researcher at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi. She was involved in mobilizing communities for political participation, education activism, motivating parents to participate in their child’s activities, rural education, trade justice, and gender equality in Kenya. 

She has vast experience in women’s studies. Earlier this year, she was the Visiting Research Associate at the Five Colleges Women’s Study Center, Mount Holyoke. She also taught at the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, and Mount Holyoke College. 

Kinyanjui shined a light on people working in the margins through her writing. She is widely published and writes opinions on topical issues in local papers. Her most recent publication is “Wanjiku in Global Development” by Nsemia Publishers. Other books include “Coffee Time,” by Laanga Press, and “Sweet Sobs” by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. “I would also like time [during residency] to work on my manuscript on self-reliance and solidarity in African communities,” said Kinyanjui.  

Kinyanjui will be on campus from September 2nd – December 16th, 2022. She will be living off-campus in housing provided by The Buchanan Initiative for Peace and Nonviolence (BIPN). “Jean (Buchanan ‘76, ‘19) is excited about her arrival. We are going to set up a meeting with the Buchanans and Mary,” said Meriwether

“I am looking forward to an awesome moment of sharing and learning from faculty, students, and the community,” said Kinyanjui. 

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