April 2015 Alumni Spotlight
April Alumni Spotlight with Christine Mwangi, (MPA ’10)
From the heart of New York City to the higher education sector of Nairobi, Kenya, Christine Mwangi has taken a truly remarkable life and career path that would be foreign to most others. We speak to her about similarities between the two cities, her philanthropic consulting firm, and how her time at Baruch and the School of Public Affairs changed her life.
What do you do at Strathmore University?
Currently, I work as the founding Deputy Director for the Center for Public Policy and Competitiveness at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya. The Center – which runs a Master in Public Policy and Management degree (MPPM) – is the first of its kind in Kenya and has been running for two years now with 60 students. There are also different Executive Education programs coordinated by the Center that trains East African civil servants on various aspects of policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Currently there is a team putting together a research strategy that will see the Center technically support government agencies on social policy issues. We also now have executive education partnerships with international institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, University of British Columbia, and others.
What are some of the most pronounced social policy issues you deal with in Nairobi? What similarities do they have to social policy issues one would also observe in New York City?
Amazingly the social issues in Nairobi are similar to those I saw in New York City. I used to say that NYC is a big Nairobi – much to some people’s confusion – but issues of good quality and safe public housing, quality education for low income city children, combating poverty in the city, (in Nairobi we have slums, and in New York there are the projects, but the issues are the same) and provision of jobs and skills training opportunities for young people are social policy challenges that I find comparable to those that NYC faces.
What other initiatives are you involved in?
On the personal front, I run an organization called Lotus Consulting which works with young women to build their critical thinking skills to support substantive leadership in their lives, families, and communities.
Can you give me an example of a particular case you’ve worked on at Lotus Consulting and the unique challenges it presented?
What I consistently face is women who have never imagine that they can actually design and have the life they aspire to. This is particularly common in women who struggle to find work – life balance between children, family, and a demanding career. There are a lot of factors that influence how women make decisions, for instance friends, public opinion, and relatives. And these attempts to satisfy everyone’s expectations leave many of them drained, exhausted, and still unhappy. At Lotus, we encourage young women to consciously plan all facets of their lives according to their unique circumstances and what they identify as the most fulfilling outcomes.
What skills or other benefits has your MPA in Policy Analysis from the School of Public Affairs afforded you in your professional journey thus far?
Baruch literally changed my life. The expert faculty I engaged with during my classes and different workshops and seminars exposed me to ways of thinking and analyzing social issues that I had previously not been exposed to. This training has contributed greatly to the way we design Executive Education programs at Strathmore Business School and the approaches I use to discuss policy issues with government officials and development specialists who attend our programs. I am indebted to Baruch because I was afforded high quality education at a reasonable cost and I dare say that there is a “Baruch effect” in Nairobi. I would particularly like to acknowledge and thank Professor Sanders Korenman and Professor Deborah Balk for being outstanding examples of scholarship and service.