“KEMU – A HUB OF DIVERSE AFRICAN CULTURAL HERITAGE – Prof. Jenifer Hartman

University of South Florida (USF) Assistant Professor Jenifer Hartman to conclude her engagement as a visiting professor at Kenya Methodist University in early June.

Professor Jenifer Hartman was awarded a Fulbright US scholarship to teach and conduct research in Kenya on culturally responsive education leadership approaches in a multicultural environment. Prof. Hartman has been a visiting professor at Kenya Methodist University’s School of Education and Social Sciences (KeMU). She has been teaching and conducting research on culturally responsive educational leadership techniques in a variety of settings. Prof. Hartman is an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of South Florida’s College of Education.

Kenya is endowed with a rich cultural heritage.  With students from diverse backgrounds, Kenya Methodist University is a beautifully blended island of diverse cultures with students who interact, exchange ideas, learn, and grow together as one big family. Backed with the university’s commitment to nurture professionals and transformational leaders and with over 32 nationalities from across the African continent represented, KeMU is a hub of the diverse African cultural heritage. “I am honored to be offered this exciting opportunity for scholarship and cultural exchange,” Hartman said. “Kenya is a very diverse country in ways that are different than the United States. I believe observing diversity and equity through a different lens will provide new insights about culturally responsive educational practices to apply in my own work and share with others.”

Visiting local schools as part of Prof. Hartman’s teaching practice observations has been one of her most enlightening and enriching cultural experiences. She observed students in a variety of settings, including national, county, extra-county, and public day schools. She was able to see what goes on in Kenyan schools in terms of teaching and learning and how it differs from the United States.

Prof. Hartman has been everyone’s friend. It is through her love for sharing that from her great cooking skills she has been baking cakes and sharing them with faculty, staff and students. Being nice and loving to everyone, she has been a member of the KeMU chapel choir. Singing with the chapel students’ choir gave her the opportunity to enjoy the Kenyan music and learn more Kiswahili. Her stay was amazing. She even made friends outside the institution, spending time teaching them on how to bake sourdough bread and in return learning about their cooking.

KeMU graciously offered for me to stay in one of the guesthouse apartments on campus….my large kitchen window faces the forest and I watch the baboons and monkeys as I prepare my meals and bake bread, cakes, and other sweets to share with the faculty, staff, and students.” She wrote in a feature story about her experience at KeMU. (Click here to view the full story)

Distance learning and developing online courses with significant student involvement is one of her areas of expertise. Faculty and staff from the Directorate of Virtual and Blended Learning (DVBL) have become her extended Kenyan family! As we all experienced the COVID pandemic, upgrading online learning took on a new meaning, and being part of the DVBL team, they embarked on this endeavor together.

With countable days left before leaving Kenya, Hartman had this to say about her final days at KeMU:

My time in Kenya is almost over and I will go back to the United States at the beginning of June.  But I am a better person for all that my Kenyan friends and colleagues have taught me, and my life is richer for the wonderful experiences I have had.  I am so grateful for the opportunities the Fulbright Scholar Award has given me and thankful for my Kenyan friends.  Asante sana Kenya Methodist University!

Confident that she has learned so much from us as we have learned from her, her indelible memories created with the students will forever be part of them. The impact she will leave behind is a growth trail to be followed by students and colleague who interacted with her closely.

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