Peggy Ngila; Navigating the juggle – Pursuing a PhD, Doctoral fellow and Motherhood


Back in 2010, Peggy Ngila, fresh from high school, was eager to change the world as she transitioned to join South-Eastern Kenya University to pursue a BSc in Range Science and Management. Then, the university had just begun, and she was part of the pioneers of the course. Four years down the line, she proudly graduated, achieving the distinction of being the top student. This remarkable accomplishment not only marked a significant milestone but also opened doors to a master’s scholarship. In 2016, she embarked on a journey towards attaining a master’s degree in Livestock Production Systems.

You might think her academic journey ends there. Nope, Peggy is a true testament to the lifelong learning values at Strathmore. In 2021, she began her Ph.D at the University of Nairobi and the journey is still going on. How does she do it? Well, dive in and find out.

What is your PhD about?

“ In 2021, I heard about the Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) fellows program that was being offered at the Centre of Biodiversity at Strathmore University under the School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH). I was curious to find out more about it. I applied and was fortunate to be accepted into this program.

As a BID fellow, I became part of a dynamic group of students, consisting of two PhD candidates and two master’s students. Together, our primary focus was the study of birds of prey, commonly referred to as Raptors. Our research aimed to gain a comprehensive understanding of their distribution and the various threats they face, with a particular emphasis on the conservation and preservation of these magnificent birds in Kenya.  With the help of Dr. David Chiawo, Dean of the School of Tourism and Hospitality, we got to interact with various stakeholders  at a workshop. They shared valuable insights on the conservation efforts being made, thus laying a solid foundation for what this project is all about: Raptor biodiversity in Kenya. 

Impact of the Centre

The impact of the Centre of Biodiversity at Strathmore University has had a profound impact on my academic journey. In contrast to my master’s studies, I was exposed to insightful seminars at an early stage of my Ph.D. These seminars not only broadened my perspective but also provided valuable guidance for my research. The support I have received has been instrumental, leading to significant opportunities. I had the privilege of participating in two international conferences, one in Geneva and another at the ICCB conference in Kigali, enhancing my exposure and networking.

Securing the Africa-Oxford Travel Grant in 2023, a coveted scholarship we had been eyeing, was a notable achievement, and the connection between Dr. Chiawo, Oxford, and Dr. Daragh Hare of WildCRU played a crucial role. Dr. Chiawo emphasized that this scholarship would strengthen the collaborative relationship between our respective schools. The 5000-pound grant, specifically for my Ph.D. research, allowed me to further my objectives. During my visit, I sought feedback on my second objective from the esteemed team at the Centre, contributing significantly to the advancement of my research.

My mentor – Dr.Chiawo

A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” – Bob Proctor.

Dr. Chiawo truly embodies the essence of the aforementioned quote. He plays a pivotal role in guiding my academic journey, and tapping into his extensive wealth of knowledge has been enlightening. The Ph.D. venture introduces uncharted territories, demanding commitment and dedication. Under his mentorship, navigating this complex terrain has become more manageable, aiding in a better understanding of the content. One thing I take away from him is that “… everything is through collaboration.” What I’ve learned from him, I have passed on and supported other master’s students who I am currently helping with their academic pursuits. Witnessing the publication of research papers or the success of my master’s students brings me immense joy. 

The work – life (motherhood) balance 

In August 2023, I embarked on a new chapter at Strathmore University, assuming the role of a part-time lecturer at the School of Tourism and Hospitality. I teach research methods and wildlife management, predominantly engaging with the third year 4th years. This journey feels oddly familiar, reminiscent of my days as a Graduate Assistant, where the dynamic interaction with students and the joy of imparting knowledge have always held a special place in my professional heart.

Navigating the realms of work, life, and academia, simultaneously as a mother of two, a part-time lecturer, and a PhD student is no easy feat. The journey involves significant commitment, dedication, and continuous learning. Fortunately, I am grateful for the unwavering support and encouragement of my partner, who walks this challenging path with me. Start each day by giving your best effort and consistently show up; you won’t regret it. “Shoulda, coulda, woulda” mentality won’t take you anywhere. Focus on the present, do your best, and move forward.”

Advice to those seeking to embark on a similar academic path?

I take inspiration from Victor Arbogba and George Sitati, who, despite facing numerous rejections in his scholarship pursuits, persisted and eventually succeeded. The key takeaway here is clear—don’t give up! The academic landscape is rich with opportunities, waiting to be explored. Seek guidance from mentors and supervisors who can shape your journey. Leverage platforms like LinkedIn for networking and staying connected. Remember, each rejection is a step closer to success, and the journey is often as important as the destination. Keep pushing forward, and you might just surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

What does the future look like for you?

All my friends have the title ‘Doctor’; so definitely, I look forward to graduating next year and earning the title as well.”


Article Written by Jemmy Kamau

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