The tales of a younger man
It was the early 2000’s when Kevin first interacted with Strathmore University. A young man, a student at Changez (Lenana School, for official purposes), hears about this institution of higher learning through the high school’s chaplaincy activities and the volunteered time of a few of the university’s students. ‘Seems like a nice place’ he likely thought to himself at the time. He, however, would be going to study Commerce at the University of Nairobi when the time came. Well, young Kevin, you’ll be happy to hear that things didn’t go exactly as planned – in the best way possible.
“If someone showed me a highlight reel of how everything would go, I would have jumped in immediately”.
Fresh out of high school, Kevin’s parents convince him to give Strathmore a try, and then go from there. He did. And, loving the environment the way he did, chose to stay and undertake the Bachelor of Commerce degree. While studying, the time came for him to take on a language elective. He opted for Spanish and together with a few classmates and fellow Español lovers, they started the Spanish club. Their club activities had them engaging with the 8 different Spanish speaking embassies in Kenya. From inviting them to campus to give talks on Spanish culture, they were then invited for national days and celebrations at the embassies.
His love for the language and passion for the club eventually led him to the path of Mr. Luis Borrallo, a Spaniard. As we know him now, he is the head of the Community Service Centre. When Kevin first met him, he was the Director of Advancement and External Relations, an office which became Kevin’s first internship and then first job. He was brought on with the aim of helping the office come up with structures to raise funds for phase III of Strathmore.
If you’re reading this from the SBS building, Student’s Centre, the Medical Center, Sports Complex, MSB, or you’re one of our SCES and SERC friends over in the warehouse, where you stand now was once bare land or a sports field. Yes, a basketball court, a soccer pitch and hockey pitch once stood where STC and SBS buildings are, but there was a vision for Strathmore’s Phase III. Upon completing his studies, Kevin was offered a job as the Advancement and External Relations Associate. Spoiler alert; phase III was successfully built even beyond the initial vision. Could you imagine, seeing something go from nothing to a bustling hub of buildings that hold future leaders and changemakers… and more than that, being a part of it? Well, if you can, you are that much closer to understanding how Kevin must feel walking on campus.
“There’s an inexplicable happiness that comes from seeing your little efforts contribute to big dreams”
Kevin is such a vibrant thread woven into the tapestry that is Strathmore, you would think he’s always been here. Well, for a period after working in the Advancement and External Relations office, Kevin ventured out of SU, but not out of aid work. While working with USAID’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s scholarship, he was offered the chance to run the scholarship as it moved to Equity Bank Group. And so, off he went to work at the Equity Group Foundation as an Education and Leadership Program Coordinator for the Wings to Fly scholarship program. It was a phenomenal learning opportunity, one that to-date he has incorporated into his roles.
You know what they say though, East or West, Home is Best. At the start of the Law School, with just the first two pioneer classes, Prof. Luis Franceschi called on Kevin to return to SU as a School Manager. The goal was to get the law school to full capacity and graduate its first class. Success! In June 2016, SLS graduated their pioneer class and in July, Kevin moved to the Financial Aid Office. This time, he was head of the department – at the time the Financial Aid Manager.
In Service of Others
“There is a lot of fulfilment in serving others and serving with others”
If you visit their first floor office today, the Financial Aid Office is a beautiful, well lit and constantly buzzing hub of activity. A stark contrast to where it was when Kevin took over from the previous manager. Then, the office has 3 people – the manager (himself), an Administrator and an Accountant who was based in the Finance Office. With time however, the team has grown into a seven-man operation, and a hotpot of different cultures, ages and skill sets.
Coming back from our dreamy walk down memory lane, here we are in present times. The Financial Aid services, which were once split across multiple departments, are now centralised and structured. These services are:
- Student Loans
- Work study program
- Grad prep
Financial aid is not a monolith. The complete opposite in fact, they work to accommodate as many students as they possibly can. As at 2016, there were 21 counties represented in SU through the scholarship offerings. Kevin’s boss, Mr. Stephen Nganga, the Registrar, in his characteristic drive for inclusivity, had challenged the office to deliberately spread its reach to the remainder underserved counties of Kenya. Well, as of July 2023, we enrolled a student from Mandera, bringing us to all 47 counties! If that’s not impact, I don’t know what is.
And yet, it doesn’t stop there. The Financial Aid Office, in partnership with Admissions have gone beyond the borders and to the rest of the continent. Last year’s graduation was a huge milestone as it perfectly symbolised years of planning and hard work. International students, under the Financial Aid office graduated with first class honours. Their families attended from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda Burundi, Ethiopia and further beyond in DRC and Liberia. Some of the students are off to Harvard to study, while others have secured (as Gen Z’s like to call it) the bag in the UK.
Speaking of Harvard, the Grad Prep program is going far beyond the continent. The program is designed to help alumni apply and take advantage of some of the most prestigious scholarships for masters and PhD programs in Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford, New York University, Cornell, Graduate Institute of Geneva and Columbia among others.
“What better way to contribute to a great story, than by being a part of many success stories.”
Last year, FAO celebrated their 10-year anniversary. Imagine that! 10 years of such passion for service that it has surpassed international barriers and generational expectations. Can you imagine what the next ten years will look like for the Financial Aid Office? Kevin can, but you’re going to have to keep reading to find out…
The days of the man he is
It’s easy to see that Kevin has made amazing strides in and with his role. But that’s not the only area of his life that has progressed forward beautifully. As Kevin says, a lot of the personal milestones he has achieved, he ties to Strathmore. For starters, Kevin has acquired an MBA and an MSc. in Education Management. Currently he is hacking away at his PhD in Education Management, supervised by two awesome women; Dr. Dimba, Dean of SHSS and Prof. Liz Thomas from the UK.
More than that, along the way, Kevin met Rita, and they got married – with a great deal of help from the SU Chaplaincy – and together, they have three sons. On these three young boys, he tries to impart the lessons he’s learnt through his work. In between of course, hunting for comic books together, drawing or playing board games. Beyond that, he can be found, gumboots on and sleeves rolled up on the farm with his parents, planting maize, avocados (talk to him on the side about this one) and pruning hedges. With his family, he plans to explore the country and travel the world. As a professional, he hopes to contribute to SU’s need-blind admissions ambition.
“If you do many things, you’re able to have a better appreciation of the limitation of time, and then be more effective… this is from one of my ‘idols’ at SU, Vinnie now the VC.”
With the same 24 hours we are all given on a daily basis, Kevin manages to head his department, mentor, teach and serve on various committees around the university. During those dreaded COVID years, he Chaired the Staff Welfare Committee. Admittedly not the most ideal time, he looks back on it with a sense of pride at the ideas they came up with and everything they were able to accomplish. He is also a Trustee of the Strathmore Provident Fund and the Chair of the SU Benevolent Fund (SUBF – read subuf) that takes care of members of staff and their families in their time of bereavement.
Kevin’s outlook on volunteering is that it is a very fulfilling learning experience. Asked to MC an event, say yes! You have the chance to robe the Pro Chancellor and Vice Chancellor during graduation? It’s one of the things that inspired Kevin to take on his PhD. Changing the printer cartridge, preparing slides, connecting HDMI cables, even changing a tyre? These seemingly small things can put you in big rooms.
The why that drives the guy
“I could very easily retire here. It’s very fulfilling to see young minds come in very pregnant with a lot of visions, and then walking with them one way or another, and seeing them actually achieve those things and become the changemakers we really want them to be”.
Kevin Muchemi is one of the clearest embodiments of our value of service to society – and not just because his office has the mandate to drive it forward as a strategic pillar. No, service is a way of life to him, and his outgoing, competitive personality makes him the right man for the job. It contributes in a huge way to his ability to do outreach and selection, because it is easy for him to go out there, meet different people and sell the ideals and values of the institution. He puts a high premium on the process of winning and helping others do the same. With that in mind, he and his team work to give each student the same transformative student experience that will allow them to thrive.
I had to know, can you take on work like this without it transforming you from the inside out? The answer? No.
“You see people coming from very humble backgrounds always smiling and happy, because they choose to see beyond their circumstances. Happiness is free!”
Through his work over the years, Kevin has learnt to appreciate a lot of the things we typically take for granted – good health, regular meals, a loving family. He has also learned to have a healthy appreciation for diversity and the way it can contribute to building better solutions. Even at the most direct level, getting feedback from the students they serve, has helped them improve in much richer ways.
To the young, to the old
To a younger Kevin, fresh out of Changez, know that everything has worked out. More than, even. You have found work that is right for you, that gives you happiness and fulfilment. You have a future generation to pass on your lessons to, and you are having a very real impact on very real people. Here’s a message from you to you, “Be patient with yourself. Get out there, meet different people and try different things”.
And to a future retired Kevin, we hope you achieved your dreams to see the Financial Aid work grow to the whole of Africa. That Strathmore is such a transformer of the world, top performing students from across the globe choose to come to Kenya, to Strathmore. We hope the young professionals you’re working with are calling you Prof. Muchemi and that your past students, now successful Lawyers, Managers, Politicians, Entrepreneurs, Techies, Artists, Parents and other Changemakers are exchanging transformative ideas at the parties you’ll throw.
This article was written by Celia Kinuthia.
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