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      Kenya Study Abroad

      PhD student creates course on transitional justice

      social work Kenya story

      Kenya Study Abroad

      Widener social work students and faculty stop at the St. Mary’s School for Boys in Kenya.

      While searching for a social work doctoral program, Susan Wysor Nguema realized that she needed a program where the faculty supported her goal in shaping an experience around transitional justice, which refers to both judicial and non-judicial measures implemented by different countries to redress legacies of human rights abuses. In one of her first interviews on Main Campus, Wysor Nguema discovered that the Center for Social Work Education at Widener University suited her needs.  

      “I felt that the faculty at Widener were genuinely interested in what I wanted to do and would support me in making it happen,” said Wysor Nguema, who was recently named an assistant professor at West Chester University and serves as an adjunct faculty member at both La Salle and Widener universities.

      Once Wysor Nguema officially became a Widener student in the summer of 2015, she began working on making her dreams come true, which involved creating a course on transitional justice that would allow her to travel to Kenya.

      With the support of Dr. Linda Houser, director of the Ph.D. in social work program and associate professor, and assistance from social workers in Kenya, Wysor Nguema created and taught an elective course for the spring of 2016 that educated Widener students on the basics of transitional justice, as well as the social climate in Kenya. Participants then traveled in May to Kenya, where they took a three-day course on African culture at Tangaza College before perusing meetings with several Kenyan organizations.

      While in Nairobi, Kenya, the Widener students stayed at a center for Christian Brothers and also spent time at the St. Mary’s School for Boys.

      “We truly made our experience unique,” Houser said. “We went outside of what tourists do and disrupted a sense of comfort.”


      Kenya Study Abroad

      Pictured from left to right at Kenya’s National Disaster Management Unit are Olivia DeBiase, Aisha Lewis, Dr. Linda Houser, Raecel Lanorio, Pius Masai, Tiffany Williams, Pamela Williams and Susan Wysor Nguema.

      The overall focus of the trip was to learn from a culture that has faced severe human rights violations and gain a better understanding of how the transitional justice framework can be applied in other areas. The students participated in several knowledge exchanges with various organizations, including transitional justice groups, the Human Rights Watch and the National Gender and Equality Commission.

      Teaching the class was a rewarding experience for Wysor Nguema. “Having the students lead conversations and reflections while we were there was very informative,” she said. “The course material in some ways mirrored what we saw, but the opportunity to speak to people on the ground provided a much richer, complex understanding of the issues Kenya is facing.”

      Wysor Nguema’s dissertation will focus on transitional justice and its potential utilization in the United States.

      Houser, who has attend several educational trips with the School of Human Service Professions, is eager to continue to build relationships with those she met in Nairobi, with a particular focus on the wellbeing of children. She hopes that this program can grow and that students will want to pursue similar trips to Kenya in the future.


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