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Kennedy Mutothori Mugo Class of ’12

Graduation Year: 2012

Major: Political Science

Job Title: Graduate Student, Undergraduate Instructor

Organization: University of California, Berkeley

Current City: Berkeley, California

Email: mugomutothori@gmail.com

What do you do on a daily basis at your job/project?

I’m a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley, where I study sustainable development. I’m enrolled in the Master in Development Practice (MDP)—a multidisciplinary program that allows me to take classes at the Boalt Law School, the Haas business school, Goldman school of public policy, and the Agricultural and Resource Economics department. My field of study is quite a complex field, and requires many different lenses to understand the different forces at play in the 21st century world. It is necessary to carefully think of all the different pieces, required to come up with sustainable projects, that actually benefit the community while at the same time making sure we bequeath our children a planet that can provide a meaningful life.

At Berkeley, I’m also a graduate student instructor (GSI). At a big school like Cal, the GSI’s are quite an important component of the learning, because the class size can be as large as 600 students. I thus get to teach undergraduate student twice a week in section (30-person class). It’s a great way to get involved with younger students who are eager to change the globe; I’ll have to admit though, I have learned quite a bit from my own students. The Undergraduate department that has hired me is the Environmental and Economic Policy department—the professors there are not just brilliant but they are also social activists who take their work very seriously inside and outside of class.

Describe your work environment (independent research, working in groups or teams, etc.)

My work environment (aka my graduate classmates) is one where I’m surrounded by various people who are have come from different academic backgrounds—journalism, Engineering, Math etc.—but we are brought together by our passion for sustainable development at home an abroad. It is through my classmates that I have learned the most here at Berkeley because we collaborate on the various group projects. I love my cohort!

How did you get involved in PCI as a student?

I learned of PCI through Liz Robinson. I wanted to build a library in the slum of my hometown, Nairobi, and she helped me put together a blue print. She told me it is possible when everyone else doubted my plan. She is a woman who has impacted my life in many ways and I owe her a lot.

What did you learn from your PCI involvement?

I learned that you should not be afraid of sharing your dream. Surround your self with people who give you the various tools to make your dream a reality.

Also, empathy is the strongest tool in the toolbox.

Which of those things do you think about the context of your current job/class/life?

No doubt, empathy! If you are not doing it for the people then you are not doing it right.

How did your experience with PCI fit in with your larger Middlebury experience and education?

PCI made my Middlebury education most meaningful. I remember having a conversation with my political philosophy professor Murray Dry who at the time thought social entrepreneurship should come after completing four years of the classic liberal arts foundation. At the time, we had just finished reading Plato’s Republic, and I drew an analogy between the allegory of the cave and social entrepreneurship. For me, the PCI experience is akin to the journey the people in Plato’s cave undertook to realize there is more to life than just shadows.

What are some unexpected challenges you’ve had in your post-graduation pursuits? (or your current job) What are some pleasant surprises?

Post graduation pleasant surprise: California has sunshine 12 months a year. It’s mind blowing! I love to run outside and I can do this all year round.

Where do you see yourself going in the future (back to school, to another location, staying at your current company, etc.)

After graduating from Berkeley, I plan to move to Nyeri, Kenya. It’s a small rural town (at the base of mount Kenya) where I was born in 1987 before moving to the capital city, Nairobi, in 1992. In Nyeri I will learn how to grow my food and be a small-scale farmer. I plan to get to know the community of farmers there and together we will brainstorm and come up with ways to pursue sustainable development.


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