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AU Nairobi | Environment & Human Health

Program Structure

Image of a group of AU Nairobi students and Kenyans sitting on and in front of an extremely large Baobab tree

The Environment and Human Health program is a unique opportunity for students interested in environmental issues, public health, and international studies who want to pursue varied opportunities in Kenya's diverse landscape. Students will have orientation and take courses for about a month in Nairobi while living in a homestay alongside Contemporary Issues in Kenya and Africa students, and then participate in a western Kenya rural homestay experience. Environment and Human Health students will then move to the Turkana Basin Institute to take an intensive course in northern Kenya for about two weeks. Environment and Human Health students will then pursue an internship or an independent research project for the remaining portion of the semester in Nairobi or another Kenyan location determined by program staff that suits each student’s academic needs. Students in this program will then finish the semester with the Contemporary Issues in Kenya and Africa students for a final excursion to wrap up the semester. This program is worth 14 or 15 credits.

Academics (Spring)

In Nairobi

picture of nairobi with big buildings and colorful laundry hanging over the gated patios

Environmental Health

ENVS-324; 3 credits

This course will examine the physical, chemical and biological factors in the environment that impact community health and health behaviors. The concept and methods of risk assessment will be discussed, as well as how health‐supportive environments can be created and maintained. This course can count as a Public Health elective and is taught at the AU Nairobi Center.

Image of a calm river near Lake Turkana, with green brush trees on each side and a large brown hill in the background

Environmental Conservation and Social Science

SABD-325; 3 credits

This course examines global and local dimensions in the conservation of the environment including its ecosystems and biodiversity with a linkage to the socioeconomic realities that exist in different societies of the world with a special focus on the East African region. It looks to identify challenges and also attempts to consider best-case scenarios for successful and sustainable conservation measures. Some interesting case studies appertaining to the East African region will be introduced and analyzed in discussion groups. Students shall gain a stronger knowledge foundation on how conservation issues are handled through participatory discussions and oral as well as written presentations that contain their own thinking processes on specific conservation issues. The course will employ a range of teaching methodologies including lectures, discussions, and case studies. This course can count as a Public Health elective and is taught at the AU Nairobi Center.

picture of a group of kenyan men, most wearing bright orange shirts, with a big umbrella in the background smiling at the camera

Immersion in Another Culture and Survival Swahili

SABD-325; 2 credits

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. Language training in “survival” Kiswahili will also be included in this course. Kiswahili is the largest and fastest growing African-based language spoken in Africa. It is the lingua franca for most of East Africa and parts of Central Africa, spoken by 100 - 150 million people in various capacities. It is also the national or official language of at least five nations; Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Union of the Comoros. This course is taught at the AU Nairobi Center.

In Turkana

picture of a giraffe drinking at ol pejeta conservancy water hole in kenya

Environments, Ecosystems and Evolution

ENVS-311; 3 credits

This course is taken at the Turkana Basin Institute founded by Dr. Richard Leakey and Stony Brook University in northern Kenya. This course offers an introduction to the ways scientists use the fossil and archaeological records to learn about past changes in Earth’s climates, environments, and animal communities, and how humanity’s ancestors responded to those changes physiologically and technologically. Interdisciplinary lectures will show evidence from the Turkana Basin’s paleoenvironmental, fossil and archaeological records of the dynamic interactions between the climate,environment, local food webs, and ancient human populations. This background will prepare students for training in paleoanthropological and archaeological field methods.

Program Choice

Image of an AU Nairobi student with her back to the camera, sitting down on barren land, watching the yellow and pink sunset

Environmental Science Independent Project

SABD-325; 3 or 4 credits

Students will spend the final weeks of the program pursuing a full-time independent research project (3 or 4 credits) or internship (3 credits), located in Nairobi or at other select sites in Kenya under the program’s direction. Subjects focused on included permaculture, lake biology and ecosystems, wildlife management, and sanitation and epidemics, any of which can be examined against the social categories that have come to serve as units of analysis in the social science research. Examples of such independent research projects or internships could include but are not limited to: issues of women empowerment in the fishing industry; HIV/AIDS and and the fishing culture; Kenyan youth contributions in the environmental conservation; and how devolution of government resources impact on wildlife management.

"The program courses were some of the most academically engaging classes I have taken and actually challenged me to rethink a lot of things I thought I knew about development."

-Student Evaluation