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A St. Lawrence University student making music and playing guitar with Kenyans on the side of a country road. Photo: St. Lawrence University, Special Collections and Vance University Archives
A St. Lawrence University student making music and playing guitar with Kenyans on the side of a country road. Photo: St. Lawrence University, Special Collections and Vance University Archives

What Kenya and Canton have in common: SLU celebrates 40-year program anniversary

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This weekend St. Lawrence University expects a record turnout for its alumni reunion. And on top of the usual festivities, this year marks another big moment in St. Lawrence history: the 40th anniversary of its study abroad program in Kenya.

The program is one of the oldest college study abroad programs in the world. Since 1972, 2,000 students have spent a semester in Kenya. And the school's connection to the East African country runs even deeper: Each year since the mid-Eighties, the university's been awarding two Kenyan students full scholarships to attend St. Lawrence.

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Reported by

Natasha Haverty
Reporter and Producer

Matthew Carotenuto is Assistant Professor of African Studies at St. Lawrence, and helped organize the Kenya reunion.

"Getting to hear the stories of four decades of experiences is I think what I'm looking forward to the most. It's just this weekend of hearing all these stories about these shared but very different experiences that happen every semester for the last 40 years."

Carotenuto says they're expecting more than 150 participants from over the decades and around the world, including the founder of the program; one of the full-time university employees at the Kenyan campus in Nairobi, who'll be seeing St. Lawrence's Canton campus for the first time; a member of Kenya's parliament who graduated from SLU, and one of the very first American students to take part in the Kenya semester 40 years ago.

The weekend's events will highlight many of the alumni who went on to devote their lives to East Africa, and carry on the lessons learned in their semester abroad. Reunion organizer Carotenuto says over the years, students often return to the U.S. resolved to make big changes to the way they live their daily lives.

"They're adapting the things they learned from Kenyans. Rather than just going to Kenya viewing it through their own eyes and taking it back they're really internalizing the lessons that Kenyans are teaching them."

To hear more voices from St. Lawrence University's Kenya Program and this 40th anniversary weekend, tune in next week to the Eight O'clock Hour.

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