Together with a committee of WKU faculty, the Office of International Programs (OIP) has selected Kenya as the target country for the 2020-2021 International Year of… (IYO) program following a spring 2017 call for proposals.
The IYO program is a yearlong exploration of a specific country or world region, celebrating the culture and examining the connections between the target country and the U.S., our region and even our institution. The IYO is primarily implemented through academic courses that feature country-specific content and through events that hone in on specific topics such as culture, history, politics and more. As a result, students, faculty and staff have numerous and varied opportunities to engage in a multidisciplinary study of the target country. Kenya will be the sixth country of focus for the IYO, following Cuba in 2018-19 and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2017-18.
The proposal for Kenya, which was authored by Dr. Nancy Rice, included faculty representation from Biology, Social Work, Political Science, Sociology, Public Health, and Philosophy and Religion. All of the faculty members involved have expertise or experience in Kenya in some way, ensuring strength in the IYO’s academic diversity. The proposal notes that Kenya is “marvelously diverse in environment, culture and history, which makes it an outstanding choice for the next IYO and for facilitating new interdisciplinary connections across WKU to expand academic diversity.”
Since the IYO’s inception in 2014-15 (IYO Ecuador), each year has featured over 40 events and 30 to 60 augmented courses. The 2016-2017 year focused on South Korea, with 50 events and 58 courses on the calendar. Each year’s calendar is driven in part by the multi-disciplinary planning committee and faculty members who embarked on the Zuheir Sofia Endowed International Faculty Seminar (ZSEIFS) to the target country in the summer preceding each IYO.
The success of each IYO relies on the expertise of WKU faculty as well as institutional ties with the target country, and this will remain true for Kenya. Loup Langton, professor in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, commented on the strength of the proposal, pointing to the existing and numerous “significant ties between the university and Kenya.”
In addition to announcing Kenya as WKU’s sixth IYO country spotlight, OIP is also introducing a newly implemented gap year that will take place between each country of focus in subsequent years. OIP is calling the 2019-2020 year the IYO Revisited, after which Kenya will take center stage. This interim year will give the WKU campus community an opportunity to revisit previous countries, closing the loop on research and explorations that began during a previous IYO or undertaking new projects inspired by a previous IYO. OIP plans to dedicate resources to support programs and activities that extend WKU’s academic engagement with past countries during that time.
Faculty members interested in expanding their knowledge of and connections to Kenya are encouraged to apply for the ZSEIFS to Kenya, which will take place in May 2020. Dr. Rice will lead the ZSEIFS, which includes a semester of interdisciplinary study of the country followed by a multi-week program onsite in Kenya. OIP anticipates opening applications for the ZSEIFS to Kenya in 2019.
The Office of International Programs will issue a call for proposals in the spring of 2019 for the 2022-23 IYO country of focus. Groups of faculty interested in proposing a country should visit www.wku.edu/iyo for information.
About the Office of International Programs: The Office of International Programs supports the internationalization agenda of the university by creating opportunities for faculty and staff development in a global context and supporting the development of an internationalized curriculum and meaningful co-curricular programming for student, campus and community audiences.
Contact: Lauren Reyes, (270) 745-4218