BGSU has been a leading educator of Kenyan students since the 1950s with their success increasing the global visibility and value of a BGSU degree and strengthening the partnership between the University and Kenya.

In a testament to the power of international partnerships and the pursuit of higher education, Bowling Green State University stands proud in celebrating its historic relationship with Kenya. This partnership has not only enriched the University's diverse community but has also fostered remarkable success stories of personal achievement and research to benefit the public good.

In a first for the University, BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers and University Advocate Dr. Sandra B. Earle traveled to Nairobi this summer to reinforce the University's commitment to international education and meet with alumni living and working in Kenya.
"Bowling Green State University and Kenya have been long connected through our education and research,” said President Rogers. “As a public university for the public good, Bowling Green State University creates global impact and it has been an incredible opportunity to hear from our alumni in Kenya, seeing firsthand the way they have used their BGSU degree to create good by working and leading in healthcare, science and education, among other fields.”

Read on to experience the successes achieved by BGSU Kenyan alumni and see what the future holds as the University's international partnerships thrive through impactful research and educational opportunities.


The Pioneer | James B. Karugu

James B. Karugu, the second attorney general of Kenya, attended the prestigious Holy Ghost College Mangu in Thika, Kenya, where he was shaped by the school's strict code of ethics, discipline and character. He credits his early education - and his school's distinctive uniform - as the catalyst for learning about studying in America and discovering BGSU.

"A former deputy mayor of Nairobi, Mr. Mark Kaigwa, noticed me in my uniform as I stood waiting for a bus for home one evening. ... A former Mangu student himself, he took me under his wing and encouraged me to pursue my dream," Karugu recalled. "He introduced me to Dr. Julius Kiano, who held a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley (the first Kenyan ever to do so). Dr. Kiano further emboldened me, advising me to visit the American Embassy in Nairobi for more information about studying in America."

It was during this time that he learned about the University's reputation for academic excellence and its welcoming atmosphere for international students.

"Eventually, I concluded that BGSU, a university in a rural setting, was the best option," Karugu said. "I wrote a letter of application and soon received my acceptance letter from BGSU. The task that now remained was for me to find my way to BGSU, Ohio, America."

The Scientist | Dr. Njeri Wamae '80


Dr. Njeri Wamae has led research resulting in new treatments and increased accessibility of medication and coverage for those affected by neglected tropical diseases, a group of 20 conditions prevalent in developing tropical regions caused by microorganisms like viruses, fungi, bacteria and parasites.

She also was integral in helping her native Kenya become certified by the World Health Organization in 2018 as free from guinea worm disease, a condition that affected 3.5 million people annually in the mid-1980s.

“My career has been very fulfilling and exciting, and I’m still very hopeful we will eliminate most of these tropical diseases in my lifetime,” Wamae said. “I don’t think I can thank BGSU and my professors enough for preparing me for this work.”

The Innovator | Caroline Mukiira '01


Caroline Mukiira is a barrier breaker, becoming IBM’s first female general manager in East Africa, and is considered among the top in her field.

She has amassed an impressive list of accolades during her 20-year career in the United States and her native Kenya, tracing her success to the foundational knowledge she learned in the nationally-ranked computer science program at BGSU.

The University's program has built a reputation during its 50-year history of producing highly qualified graduates prepared to solve technology's biggest problems.

“The impact Bowling Green State University had on me was such a transformational experience in terms of exposing me to and giving me the tools I needed to be able to work in any high-tech-rooted firm,” she said.

The Bridge | Dr. Kefa Otiso

Dr. Kefa Otiso, a geography professor who arrived at Bowling Green State University in 1999, has extensively studied African immigration to the U.S. as one of his primary research interests.

But when it came time to network with other professionals who did similar scholarly, scientific and research work on Kenya, they discovered no central network existed.

“In the five years or so after you finish graduate school, you’re finding out you need a network and the support systems that come from these types of organizations, but one didn’t exist,” Otiso said. “Basically, we decided to work on one.”

Otiso became one of the founders of the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association (KESSA) along with Maurice Amutabi, C. Gichana Manyara and Francis Koti, and the organization maintains its headquarters in Bowling Green to this day.

"BGSU has a global impact, and when it is educating students from a country, what you’re seeing is a bilateral and mutual benefit," Otiso said.

Dr. Kefa Otiso Kenya HABs Kenya

The Good | Milestone moments in public good research

To further understand the intricate issue of toxic algal blooms and freshwater health, BGSU scientists repeatedly have traveled to the Kenyan portion of Lake Victoria to compare and contrast findings there and what they could mean for Lake Erie.

"The trips to Lake Victoria have been really beneficial for helping us better understand and potentially predict what lies ahead for Lake Erie when it comes to harmful algal blooms," said Dr. George Bullerjahn, emeritus professor of Biological Sciences and the director of the Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health at BGSU.

The scientists - including BGSU students - collaborate with researchers from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and Kisii University, with which BGSU formed a formal partnership in 2015 to promote joint research projects and to support faculty and student exchanges.

Updated: 04/24/2024 09:49AM