Dr. Faith Maina, a SUNY Oswego faculty member and a new Fulbright Scholar, looks forward to returning this school year to Kenya, her native land, as she seeks to build the research and writing skillsets of young Kenyan scholars.
“I would like to prepare a few experts (in research methods and scholarly writing) while I’m on my Fulbright — 10 to 15 young professors I have been working with,” said Maina, who has focused on teaching those skills in her 11 years at SUNY Oswego. “Hopefully, they can work with others, and it will expand like ripples.”
The associate professor in the School of Education’s curriculum and instruction department recently attended an orientation in Washington, D.C., for 72 of her Fulbright peers around the nation — as well as 70 students — bound for Sub-Saharan Africa.
She found the passion of her fellow scholars and the students matched her own.
“Obviously, I’m very excited to have this opportunity,” Maina said. “Of course, I wouldn’t have it if SUNY Oswego wasn’t as nurturing as it is. I’ve been supported throughout by my colleagues, by my students and by the institution in general to be able to come to a place where I can comfortably make this proposal and have it go through.”
The Fulbright proposal Maina produced grew from her experience with universities such as Moi in Eldoret, Kenya, working with young researchers on some of the nation’s seemingly intractable gender issues: female circumcision, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS awareness and education and employment discrimination.
Maina’s projects have included “A Child A Tree,” a study that uses the metaphor of a tree as a symbol to teach young Africans about the need to nourish and respect their own bodies.
While Maina has been actively involved with Kenyan universities since the turn of the century, it was in 2005 that Moi University invited her to be an editor of the JINSIA-Moi University Journal of Gender and Women Studies.
“I was working with women on (interpreting and disseminating) data,” Maina said. “They weren’t getting promoted because their journal submissions were not being accepted due to poor writing. No articles, no promotions, no gender equity. I feel this (Fulbright) would be an opportunity to break some of this cycle.”
Maina attended primary and secondary school in Kenya, and did her undergraduate work at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. She learned to speak Swahili and English, in addition to her native Kikuyu, and wants the same educational opportunities for other girls and women in extraordinarily diverse Kenya, which has 42 distinct ethnic groups.
Among her goals for the year are to continue work she, along with Dr. Patricia Clark, director of African and African American studies, and Dr. Webe Kadima, associate professor of chemistry, have done to establish an ongoing exchange of African students with SUNY Oswego. But her key focus will remain on developing Kenyan scholarship.
“I think it’s really about understanding your own environment,” she said. “When we consume knowledge done by others, they produced it for another culture, another audience. There is really little innovation (in Kenya) in terms of what do we really need. … If we don’t do that, we try to say solutions found for the U.S. will work there. But often they don’t. We continue to put Band-Aid solutions on really deep problems.”