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AU Nairobi | Contemporary Issues in Kenya & Africa

Program Structure

Image of AU Nairobi students and staff standing and kneeling in front of two giraffes who are trying to kiss some of them

Kenya’s diversity allows for abundant academic and research opportunities. The AU Nairobi Contemporary Issues in Kenya and Africa program allows students interested in international studies, history, gender, development, and other subjects to obtain an internship at a Kenyan-run organization in Nairobi while pursuing academic interests at the AU Nairobi Center and at a local university. To enrich the student experience, housing varies between urban and rural homestays, in addition to shared apartment living in a vibrant Nairobi neighborhood. AU Nairobi program excursions in various parts of Kenya deepen academic and personal understanding of all Kenya has to offer. Students on this program in the fall will share part of their experience with Public Health students, and in the spring with Environment & Human Health students. This program is worth 16 credits per semester.

Year Long Students

The Contemporary Issues in Kenya and Africa program has the capability to accommodate both semester and year-long students. For year-long students, the fall semester is usually packed with the regular class load and internship, while the spring semester is customized for each student's academic needs through independent study, multiple courses at the partner university, or in additional internship hours.



SABD-391; 3 credits

The internship is a vital part of students' growth and knowledge in such an urban African city as Nairobi. Opportunities are plenty for students to intern with organizations which allow "on the ground" experience and direct interaction with partners and managers in a variety of fields. Many alumni of the program have found their internship to be the most eye opening in terms of the direction their academic and professional goals change and expand beyond this experience.


SWAH-xxx; 3 credits

Kiswahili is spoken by more than 100 million Africans in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo and northern Mozambique, southern Sudan and several islands off the Indian Ocean. We offer all levels of Kiswahili for to suit your academic needs. Being able to master basic skills in Kiswahili is rewarding for several reasons -- it allows you to develop a good rapport with Kenyans you meet in your daily interactions, it separates you from tourists, and it opens you up to learning other Bantu-based languages that a third of Africans speak. It’s also fun. This course is taught at the AU Nairobi Center.

Social and Political History of Kenya

HIST-314; 3 credits

This course is an introductory seminar on Kenya’s history, culture, and politics, and is tailored to give students an in-depth exploration of the country’s history, its diverse cultures, and provide important context of its national political institutions. It is expected that at the end of this course, students will have attained some understanding of how Kenya came to be, how it relates to the international community and what internal and external challenges the country is grappling with. The academic structure combines intensive readings, classroom discussion, and archival research in order to provide a broad yet focused overview. Books and articles assigned for the course can be found in Nairobi bookshops, in the AU Nairobi library, and in online databases. You will be allowed to turn in most assignments via email. Students will be expected to conduct original research for this class, with a focus on fieldwork or archival visits.This course is taught at the AU Nairobi Center.

Institutional Strengthening in Kenya

SISA-341; 3 credits

Kenya has a vibrant civil society made up of thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups that represent community interests and provide crucial social services to many of its citizens. This course will focus on these different organizations. Students will have the opportunity to study locally-based NGOs through their structures, their approach to particular issues in development, the challenges they face, and the overall political and social context in which these organizations operate. This course is closely linked with students’ internship placements. Students will be expected to gain first-hand experience through observing and participating in the work of at least one developmental organization. Through internship organizations that depend largely on financial grants, students will create a model grant proposal as a major assignment. This course is taught at the AU Nairobi Center.

Immersion in Another Culture

SABD-325; 1 credit

This course is designed to facilitate your immersion into Kenyan culture in order to maximize your study abroad experience. The class will look at aspects of Kenya’s diverse and complex culture in the context of being an international student. We will explore cultural patterns, identity, ethnicity, gender and stereotypes through an anthropological lens. Guest lecturers will be invited to share their expertise on specific topics. All local and extended stay excursions for the semester are part of your grade for this course.


Geographies of Gender in Development

WGSS-350; 3 credits

This course will investigate a number of competing conceptions of development within the African context from a gendered perspective. The underlying political, economic, social, and gender dynamics that make "development" a continuing global problem will be explored by looking at issues such as health and reproductive rights, livelihoods and land rights, as well as human security and political participation. It will examine women's contributions to, challenges to, and revisions of the terms of key conceptual and political debates in development. The course will begin with theoretical approaches to gender and development and feminist critiques. It will then turn to specific broad themes including nationalism, post-colonial state and women, connections between development, peace and gender equality, indigenous and local knowledge practices, and women's resistance, agency, and identity. This course is taught at the AU Nairobi Center.


A Class at a Partner University

3 credits

Students can choose to take one class at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi, in place of the Geographies of Gender in Development course offered through the AU Nairobi Center. USIU uses an American system of higher education and is the largest private secular university in East Africa. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and by the Government of Kenya. USIU offers Business Studies, Information Technology, International Relations, and Journalism, among other courses. Keep in mind that course offerings are dependent on the schedule of AU Nairobi courses and due to security reasons students cannot take courses beginning or ending after dusk.

"Kenya is an amazing country and you have the opportunity to see so much of it in different settings. The internship component is a really unique opportunity and through classes and experiences I learned more about what I am interested in that my other four semesters at AU."

- Student Evaluation