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Active - JAN 180: Empowered Writing: Writing with Kenyan Women and Nonprofits
Amsterdam, Netherlands; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Nairobi, Kenya; Nanyuki, Kenya; Nyeri, Kenya (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Jan Term
Homepage: Click to visit
Restrictions: SMC-CA applicants only
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Jan Term 2018 12/01/2017 12/01/2017 TBA TBA
Program Description:
Course Title:Empowered Writing: Writing with Kenyan Women and NonprofitsCourse ID:JAN 180Instructors:Raina J. LeónContact Email:rjl6@stmarys-ca.eduLocation:

Nanyuki, Kenya

Course Description:

In 2007, co-founders Jenni and Jason Doherty started a school:  Daraja Academy in Laikipia County, Kenya.  Daraja means bridge; girls of Daraja Academy are committed to building bridges of knowledge in their communities. In this course, you, too, will become Daraja, by building bridges of access and knowing with your writing. 


Hundreds apply for a few select spots to receive a free secondary education in Kenya.  Students in 8th grade score at the top of their classes across the country but would be prevented from pursuing further education by community norms for women and extreme poverty but for the intercession of Daraja Academy.  Unusual for the entire country, up to 30 students per class come; at the school, 33 out of 42 tribes are represented, nearly at equal numbers.  In addition to building their own futures and planning to be community leaders, students are also engaging in intertribal dialogue that offers the possibility of upsetting generations of prejudice and fear and intertribal conflict. 


In this Jan Term course, we will learn engage in pre-January studies to establish an understanding of the community context and also build our writing skill sets.  We will then have three-week immersion experience, learning about the life and cultures of Kenya from texts and directly from the women of Kenya.  We will support local nonprofit organizations, particularly those focused on women and children, through writing.  We will also mentor student-writers in the Media Club of Daraja Academy who write about girls’ education on various online websites.  The immersion experience will include classroom visits in Laikipia County; a visit to the Twala Maasai Women’s Cultural Center; Masai Mara Reserve for a safari based at a luxurious tent camp; visits to local artists to learn about their crafts; and visits to local nonprofits.  In teams of four, we will partner with a local nonprofit, conduct a needs assessment, and create web-content for the organization, strategically building an online and social media presence to support the aims of the organizations.  In solidarity and in community, our writing and stories can make a difference. 

Division:Upper DivisionPrerequisites:

Eng 5; Completion of at least one upper division course in communication, politics, economics, business, sociology, ethnic studies, women and gender studies, or anthropology recommended. Previous community service and/or leadership experience recommended.

Informational Meetings:

Attendance at one of these meetings is mandatory for enrollment (contact the instructor if you have conflicts):  

Tuesday 9/6, 7:30-8:30pm, Dante 218

Wednesday 9/7, 7:30-8:30pm, Dante 218

Tuesday 9/13, 7:30-8:30pm, Dante 218

All students are required to participate in an on-campus overnight team-building experience immediately before traveling (January 5-6, 2017).    

Reading List:

Clifton Gachagua, Madman at Kilifi

Warsan Shire, Teaching my mother how to give birth

Wangari Maathai, Unbowed:  A Memoir

Mary Pipher, Writing to Change the World

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Joe Lambert, Digital Storytelling:  Capturing Lives, Creating Community


Course Reader

Selected readings on rhetoric for activists, writing as social action and literary activism, women’s empowerment, reflection and action (praxis), and (digital) storytelling  


Basis for Final Grade:

20% Project Proposal and Needs Assessment (done in consultation with site partner)

10% Reading Rites/Writing Rites:  Blogged reflections on the readings and the writing process that include an interpretation (processing information), an evaluation (evaluating the information), an application (applying the information), and three questions to bring to discussion. 

20% Group Discussions (Working Group and Whole Team)

20% Written/Web Content for Nonprofits

10% Travelogues/Reviews on Places Visited

20% Digital Story

Course Fee Per Student:$3,700Description of What the Course Fee Covers:

airfare, airport taxes, emergency health insurance, lodging, in-country transportation, meals at Daraja Academy and the Twala Maasai Cultural Center, entrance fees, local guides, safari at the Masai Mara Reserve, visas, and reader. Students will also be required to have certain vaccinations and medications for the trip; these will have differing costs depending on each student & medical insurance. Check the January Term catalog for the payment schedule and info about travel scholarships. 

Dates Traveling:

January 6 to 8, 2017 is the departure from SFO to Nairobi, which would incorporate travel time and layovers.

January 26 to 27, 2017 is the return from Nairobi to San Francisco, which would incorporate travel time and layovers.  

Dates on Campus:

January 2, 3, 5, and 6 of 2017

Students will leave for the airport together on January 6, 2017

Class Schedule:MTuThF, 12:00 - 2:35 PMSpaces reserved for freshmen:None