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Giving Back Through Getting Involved

"Everyone is studying to be someone, to get a good job, to open a business, or get employment, but it is important to always give back to the community, Giving back gives you that motivation, gives you that energy, gives you that aspect of enabling you to see things differently.”

"Everyone is studying to be someone, to get a good job, to open a business, or get employment, but it is important to always give back to the community, Giving back gives you that motivation, gives you that energy, gives you that aspect of enabling you to see things differently."

Antony Maikuri, an international student from Kenya, has long since realized that he doesn't have to wait for a diploma and a job offer to start giving back to the University of Minnesota community.

In the final semester of his master's program studying developmental practice at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Antony is finishing up an activity-packed college career, which has included leading classes, attending retreats, and participating on a student board -- all in addition to his studies!

Sounds tiring, right? Actually, Antony says his involvement on campus has given him the energy and passion to work towards further internationalizing the University.

"Everyone is studying to be someone, to get a good job, to open a business, or get employment, but it is important to always give back to the community," he says. "Giving back gives you that motivation, gives you that energy, gives you that aspect of enabling you to see things differently."

This can-do attitude has set Antony apart as a leader on campus, something International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) Program Coordinator for Student Engagement Marina Uehara was quick to note when discussing her time recommending extra-curricular activities to Antony.

"He has been a great connector of other international African students, as well as an advocate for all international students on campus," she said.

Antony has been finding ways to get involved on campus since his undergraduate days at a university in Nairobi, Kenya. Living nearly three hours away from his hometown and family, Antony channeled his enjoyment of sports into a place to find socialization and community, travelling eastern Africa to play soccer, rugby, and volleyball with school teams.

Following his undergraduate education, Antony got his first glimpse of international development as an intern with the United Nation Industrial Development Organization where his work helped increase women's literacy and financial literacy. After budget cuts cancelled the program, Antony set out to supplement the skills he had gained with a degree in program evaluation, leading him to the University of Minnesota in fall 2015.

Looking to challenge himself with a long-term activity, Antony approached ISSS staff to learn about extracurricular and leadership options with Culture Corps (ISSS's program that helps international students share their unique perspectives and experiences with the UMN community). One offering that peaked his interest was instructing an adult education class through the University's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a department that had recently partnered with Culture Corps to connect with international students. In fall of 2016, Antony designed and instructed a course "Governance in Kenya and How It Affects Development" inspired by Kenya's revised constitution and his interest in sharing the attributes that distinguish it from other countries in Africa.

"[When] I introduce myself to people who haven't travelled as much, they'll generalize [that I] come from Africa," Antony explains. "They don't really ask what part of Africa I come from or what culture [I] have. What they know is what CNN or Fox highlights; those are the negative stories. I felt the need to show the good side of Africa and what's happening."

Antony is now preparing to lead a second class, 'Exploring the Diversity of Africa,' where he hopes to continue fulfilling the need he sees for African knowledge. But the students won't be the only ones learning: Antony's role as a teacher has provided him with knowledge that will benefit his future career performing program evaluation in Africa.

"[In Kenya,] we have a culture where you respect elders, but I like the way [OLLI students] humble themselves to engage in conversation. They try to challenge me and I try to challenge them as well. There [is] also the aspect of me wanting to learn from these adults with their connection of American experience-- there is that beautiful exchange of information," Antony says.

In addition to his teaching role, Antony has also strengthened his leadership skills by attending ISSS's Cross-Cultural Leadership Retreat in spring 2016. There he joined 30 other international master's students in sharing perspectives which exemplifies how cultural background can impact the way others make their decisions and behave in certain ways. Antony believes the time spent learning his classmate's point of view helped him to better understand them, a lesson he believes is important in any leadership role, including the ones he holds on campus.

"You have to humble yourself; you have to sit down with the people you are representing so you understand each one of them. You learn how to analyze situations by putting [yourself] into someone else's shoes," he explains.

One way in which Antony is doing just that during his time on campus is through his role facilitating the new International Student Advisory Board, convened by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) and the Office of Student Affairs (OSA). In his position, Antony and the board provide feedback to departments on campus and discuss issues which impact the lives of international students outside of the classroom. Started at the beginning of the 2016 school year, the board identified the need for initiatives to assist international students with their health and in finding a job upon graduation.

Antony says his favorite part of working at the University is learning the culture of other international students, something he enjoys so much that he plans to continue his involvement even after his upcoming graduation.

"While I'm doing my Ph.D., I'll do it here at the University, so I'll still be engaged with international students," Antony says, explaining his plan to complete a year of training before pursuing a doctorate in program evaluation or international development. "This is a community that needs support and I feel like my experience will be helpful to the community as a whole.

For all that Antony has given to the University, however, his commitment to giving back has also given him quite a few things: introductions to different mindsets, glimpses of unique world views, and the opportunities to try new things.

Date Published: May 2017

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