By Steve Harmic, Penn State
DUBOIS – Assistant Professor of Economics Evelyn Wamboye hopes to take her students on an annual trip to Kenya to learn about the country’s developing economy.
She said it will give the students an appreciation for the United States economy while providing information on how both the Kenyan and the United States economies could be improved.
Wamboye, a native of Kenya, made a trip back to her home country this summer to explore options there for educational experiences for Penn State DuBois economics students who study developing countries. It had been 10 years since Wamboye’s career led her to places beyond Kenya, and she returned to see the country through the eyes of an economist.
“Home is always home, but when you go back in this way, you see things with a different prospective,” she said. “It was completely different. When you leave somewhere, you see things differently. I now see that the infrastructure is really destroyed.”
Failing infrastructure was not the only thing that now seemed foreign to Wamboye in her native country. “I found that they don’t keep records of unemployment, or how many jobs have been lost or created,” she explained. “Especially for research, if you don’t have the data, how can you know where this economy is going?”
It’s things like this that Wamboye said will serve as valuable lessons for her students, noting, “They’ll appreciate the difference and get a more clear picture of what it’s like in a developing country where you just can’t get the information. Here, we’re used to being able to get anything online, its instant information,” she said.
Wamboye said the trip will not only be a valuable educational experience for the students, but it could also be beneficial for Kenya.
“They will be able to visit some economic sectors, have a cultural experience, and be able to make some positive contributions to the community in conjunction with Kenyan students,” she said, offering her own account of service to the community of Nambale, Kenya. “Before returning to the U.S., I had the opportunity to honor an invitation by a non-profit church organization in my home town, Nambale in the Western Province of Kenya.
“I was asked to advise them on community development. After spending almost a full day with them discussing some fascinating economic issues based on ‘Participatory Integrated Development Approach’, they generously rewarded me with a sheep as a token of appreciation for my time.”
Wamboye hopes to secure the funds to take her first group of students to Kenya in 2012.
“This will undoubtedly be a life transforming experience for those students that participate,” she said.