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The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa program, which are part of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), have been engaged in outreach to African universities with the goal of reaching graduate schools in African countries whose students have not received fellowship awards from either program. Specifically, the university outreach program amplifies the reach of ongoing competitions by providing information and advice on navigating the fellowship application process, including testimonials from former APN and Next Gen fellows on their experiences with the fellowships and the opportunities provided. Ultimately, the overall objective is to diversify the application pool of the APN and Next Gen fellowships and awards.
The program held its first in-person outreach event in Kenya on October 21, 2022. The outreach program was co-organized with and held at the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) main campus in Kakamega County.
The SSRC was represented by APN/Next Gen Senior Program Officer, Dr. Duncan Omanga, who also presented the opening remarks of Dr. Cyril Obi, the APN/Next Gen Program Director. He led a delegation that included Dr. John Mwangi (Next Gen alumnus & 2021 IRF APN fellow), Dr. Linnet Hamasi (2019 APN IRF fellow), Moses Osiro (2019 Next Gen Proposal fellow), Graham Amakanji (2021 Next Gen research & 2022 Next Gen completion fellow), and Dr. Steve Akoth (chair of the Next Gen selections and advisory board).
At the university, the team was received by acting Vice Chancellor, Dr. Rose Auma, who formally opened the event, and Prof. Stephen Odebero, the director of graduate studies, who also led the local organizing committee. Other senior faculty who graced the event were Prof. Judah Mwaluko, the acting deputy Vice Chancellor of Academics and Student Affairs, as well as Prof. Pontian Godfrey Okoth, the chair of the MMUST board of graduate studies. The meeting was attended by over 200 graduate students, most of whom were early career faculty members, drawn from the main campus and the three other MMUST campuses (Kaimosi University College, Kibabii University College, and Turkana University College). The students came from a diversity of disciplines such as history, peace and conflict studies, communication studies, economics, education, linguistics, agriculture, public health, and nursing.
Dr. John Mwangi explained to the audience how, despite being a Next Gen alumnus, he eventually won an APN fellowship after trying three times. Dr. Hamasi, a former graduate student at MMUST, urged the graduate students to read widely and prepare well-thought-out proposals as the APN and NextGen fellowships are highly competitive. Mr. Osiro gave insights into how the two workshops he attended in Ghana (Research Methods Workshop) and Tanzania (Writing Workshop) helped him complete and produce a robust PhD proposal in 2019/2020. For his part, Mr. Amakanji shared his experience of how he came to know about the fellowship and how attending the various workshops expanded his academic networks, as well as how these networks shaped how he thinks about his ongoing PhD project. Dr. Akoth gave insights into the goals of the program, and further explained the role of the advisory and selections committee in facilitating the process of nominating fellows for each cohort. Dr. Omanga shared program data explaining trends in applications, as well as funded proposals across disciplines, universities, and individual African countries. He also drew from summarized reviewer reports to give insights into what makes a proposal competitive.
Thanks to the outstanding team at MMUST led by Prof. Odebero. The meeting was extraordinarily successful and enthusiastically attended.