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Eunice Karanja Kamaara
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One of SRF’s distinguished alumni, Eunice Karanja Kamaara, is Professor of Religious Studies at Moi University in Kenya. She received the SRF fellowship in 2008, when she joined the faculty of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), where she has retained the position of International Affiliate Professor. Her academic career began with a graduate assistantship at Moi University in the Department of Religious Studies in1992, and over the past twenty years she has risen through the ranks, taking her current professorship in September 2011. On March 29, 2012, she delivered her Inaugural Lecture, entitled (Re)Constructing Gender: A Holistic Strategy to Controlling HIV / AIDS in Kenya. Her long career at Moi University has been recognized with a service award and has involved teaching and training, research, and administration. The longstanding partnership between Moi University and IUPUI was reinforced by Professor Kamaara’s opportunity to spend one year as visiting faculty there through SRF, and she continues to collaborate with her IUPUI colleagues.
Professor Kamaara first approached SRF in 2008. Following widespread violence in response to the disputed results of the presidential election in December 2007, she and her family were targets of persecution because of their Kikuyu heritage. They were threatened directly by people who regarded them as unwelcome foreigners; part of their property was torched and burned down. With the help of another family, they went into hiding for a week before one night receiving a police escort that helped “to steal her family out”. They boarded a flight to Nairobi and remained there through the end of January. Even after peace talks offered stability and allowed Professor Kamaara and her husband to return to Eldoret in February of 2008, they faced danger on the long journey to university every day and so were forced to stay home. Though Moi University was supportive of Professor Kamaara and her husband, also a member of staff there, the distress of being separated from their children, whom they had placed in schools in a safer region, and the impossibility of carrying out academic work in such precarious circumstances, prompted Professor Kamaara to seek assistance. Moi University’s partnership with IUPUI resulted in colleagues there reaching out to the SRF for support. The SRF fellowship allowed Professor Kamaara to spend a year of respite at IUPUI’s Department of Religious Studies where she taught courses and began a book addressing the historical background of the recent violent crisis in Kenya.
Professor Kamaara was eager to return to Moi University after the threats to her safety in her homeland had subsided, and resumed her position there in 2009. Her research accomplishments have been many and remarkable: she has carried out projects and assessments at international, national, and local levels, including research consultancies for The World Bank on youth sexual health programs and for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on gender and sexuality. She has collaborated on international research and worked with universities all over the world from Bayreuth University in Germany and the University of Birmingham to the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Loyola University in Chicago. These projects have resulted in over 200 presentations in local and international conferences and Professor Kamaara’s publication of 50 articles in referred journals, sixteen chapters in edited works, and six authored and coauthored books.
Professor Kamaara’s dedication to teaching and research stems from a deep intellectual curiosity, and she remains eager to learn any and all new developments in her field and beyond. Currently, she is enrolled for a Master of Science degree in International Health Research Ethics in the School of Medicine at Moi University and is working on a research project on challenges of obtaining informed consent in international HIV research in Western Kenya. She has said of the reciprocal process of learning and teaching: “As I seek to translate knowledge that I generate in research into practical development for young people, I continue to learn and unlearn a lot on holistic health of young people.”