Ohio Dominican University English professor Dr. Imali J. Abala is preparing for an opportunity of a lifetime: to teach University students in her native country of Kenya. Abala, who came to the United States in 1982 to attend college, was recently accepted into the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP). This competitive scholar fellowship program is funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and supports educational projects at higher education institutions in Africa.
Since its inception in 2013, approximately 397 African-born scholars who now live in the United States or Canada have been awarded this fellowship to travel to Africa and teach at its universities.
After she arrives in Kenya in mid-May, Abala will begin teaching at Kisii University, which is located in Kisii, Kenya. During her 60-day fellowship, she will share her expertise and passion as she teaches a Creative Writing course, conducts student workshops for the university, mentors local high school students, works with students on their graduate research projects, and helps the university develop its creative writing program and curriculum.
“I am very excited to participate in this program because the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program is doing a lot of good on the continent,” Abala said. “This program provides scholars, like me, with a much-needed opportunity to network with peers from Africa in the most dynamic way: mapping them to an institution and connecting them with scholars who have similar academic interests.”
Although the university is over two hours away from her hometown of Kakamega, she is excited to be heading back to her home country to do what she loves most: teach.
“I see my participation in the program as a way of sharing my expertise and making a difference in students’ lives,” she said. “This is also one of the ways that I can help live ODU’s mission, which focuses on educating ‘individuals committed to intellectual, spiritual and professional growth, who develop into lifelong learners, serving others in a global society.’”
Abala says she was encouraged to apply to the fellowship program by colleagues who, like her, are members of the Kenyan Scholars & Studies Association (KESSA), a national organization that promotes the intellectual and professional interests and welfare of Kenyan Diaspora scholars and their associates. However, she says she also was interested in participating in the program because of its outstanding reputation and important mission.
"CADFP’s goal of promoting the intellectual and professional growth of learners in other parts of the world, and particularly Africa, is one I find most inspiring and exhilarating about the program,” Abala said. “The application process was exhaustive, and I sincerely appreciate the assistance and support I received from ODU’s vice president for Academic Affairs, Theresa Holleran, Ph.D., and its director of Sponsored Research and Foundation Support, Sarah Elvey. They helped to make this opportunity possible.”
This spring, Abala received the news that she had been accepted and she would have the opportunity to pursue her dream of teaching, mentoring and inspiring a future generation of Kenyan scholars and writers.
“As a native-born Kenyan teaching in the United States, my role is to build bridges between our two nations by providing a global perspective on issues we confront in our contemporary world, especially probing questions such as: ‘What is Truth?’ and “What is Justice?,” Abala said. “I believe there is no better way of arriving at the answers to these questions than exploring them through the power of the written word.”
Abala is considered one of the most well-known Kenyan writers. In 2017, she was nominated for the prestigious Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, in which she received runner up for her book, “The Dreamer.”