Alumnus Austin Walker ’08, recent graduate of Hamilton College, was awarded a Fulbright US Student Program scholarship to Kenya in interdisciplinary studies. This grant will allow him to return to Kenya to continue work on his project, called “Kenyan Youth Development: Youth as Kenya’s Development Architects.”
Austin’s work began last summer when, after studying abroad in Dar es Salaam, he traveled to West Kenya with Hamilton College Professor of Government Steve Orvis to begin a project called “Development Perspectives: The Lost Voices of Kenyan Youth,” funded by a 2011 Levitt Research Fellowship Grant. Austin interviewed 138 secondary school students of varying social and economic backgrounds, asking them questions focusing on their backgrounds, challenges facing Kenyan youth, solutions to said problems, the role of NGOs and outside organizations in addressing these problems, and how the students felt about these organizations. In order to carry out his project, Austin partnered with the Lwala Community Alliance (LCA), an organization that aims to promote “physical health, educational opportunity, economic freedom, cultural vitality and spiritual growth” in Lwala.
“The overarching goal of the project is to bring the voices of Kenyan youth into the often theoretical debate raging in academia over how to approach development,” said Walker (hamilton.edu, 2011). He hopes that, by increasing exposure to the thoughts and opinions of those who are in need of aid, he can bring the most important issues to light and help organizations devoted to improving life for Kenyan youth focus on the issues that are most relevant to their audience.
Now, Austin will rejoin the LCA staff and director Robert Kasabala to continue his study, now moving away from his baseline interviews to investigate “…the methods youth would use to address development within their communities and the strengths and weaknesses of empowering Kenyan youth to be the architects of their development.” (hamilton.edu, 2012)
At WMS, Austin was a one-time winner of the Faculty Prize and a two-time (in two consecutive years!) winner of the Mountaineering Award. Austin graduated from Hamilton College with a self-designed interdisciplinary studies major focused on international development and social justice.