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Keeping Strathmore ever new

Ms. Dorina Telaide plays a double role in the running of the University: She serves as the Director Administration Services and Advisor to the Vice Chancellor, Strathmore University. We spoke to her on her experience of the merger between Kianda College and Strathmore College, and her early years that contributed to who she is today.

Who is Ms. Telaide?

I was born in Ethiopia and brought up in Kenya.  I am Italian, but a Kenyan citizen and I consider Kenya to be my home.  I speak Italian.  One can never forget one’s mother tongue.  Besides, I spoke only Italian until I went to school.


What took your family from Italy to Ethiopia and eventually Kenya?

My father was working in Ethiopia when World War II broke out. He joined the Italian army there – Ethiopia was an Italian colony at the time.  Italy was soon defeated by the British and my father was taken prisoner.  When the war ended, he was released and continued to work in Ethiopia.  He was an expert in glass – making glass, crafting vases from it as well as working on the machines which made bottles on a large scale.  When glass factory owners wanted to open up a glass factory in Kenya, they asked my father to come here and start it.  This was the first glass factory in Kenya. So that is how we landed here.  My mother was a homemaker, and a very good one too!

After some years, my father was asked to start a glass factory in Sudan and he relocated there with my mother.  They remained there for a few years, then retired to Italy, where they both passed away after some years.

You were present during the merger between Strathmore College and Kianda College. How was that experience?

I taught a variety of secretarial subjects at Kianda College for 11 years, before taking a 10-year break.  I then returned to the College as it was preparing for the amalgamation with Strathmore Accountancy College. We moved to the present Madaraka Campus (Sangale Campus now) in 1993, and I have worked here since then, with the exception of a four-year break.

Over the years, typical of any growing institution, there have been many changes.  When we first moved to Madaraka, it was not easy to acclimatize to the merger of the two separate entities.  Some people were pessimistic of it and expressed the view that Kianda College should not have been ‘taken over’ by Strathmore.

With time, this has been proved wrong. The vision of the merger was working together to build a world class professional training college to offer professional qualifications.  The culmination and crown of all the efforts of the joint venture came in 2008 when Strathmore received its Charter as a University. Looking back at what we have today, it was well worth it.

 Who influenced you most in life?

As a working professional and in social life, I would say that many people have played roles of influence in my life. However, my father’s example has stuck with me to date. He spoke few words of advice but left a wealth of good example to follow.  He was an extremely hard-working, upright and honest person.  From him, I learnt the value of work well done, a guiding light that has been with me over the years.

What did you aspire to be when you were younger? Did you deviate from your aspirations to the current role you play today in the University?

When I was much younger, I wanted to work in the media – which in those days meant being on radio or on television. I was at school in Loreto Convent Valley Road, then went to Kianda College, and later to the London School of Journalism. As I grew up, my dreams were evolving, and I yearned to be a teacher.  And that is how I landed in the classroom at Kianda College and Strathmore College. Now, I am in administration services full time and enjoy it all very much.

How does the Administration role assist in making SU as neat and as orderly as Stratizens?

We are responsible for furnishing, maintaining, and improving all the physical facilities, working closely with the housekeeping department.  Indeed, the most expensive facilities would be useless if they aren’t clean, neat and aesthetically appealing.

I admit it’s no mean feat to keep things orderly and in working condition when you have a huge number of users of the facilities. We get a lot of support from students and staff who use the furnishings and equipment carefully and report breakages so that we repair them in time before they fall apart.

What skills are the most important to have to succeed in life?

While we teach a lot of technical skills and courses here at Strathmore, I would single out people skills as key. Regardless of where we are, the ability to relate with others properly, with finesse and courtesy, goes a long way in living a fulfilled life.

One of the roles you play is ‘Advisor to the Vice Chancellor’ what does this entail? Do you tell him what to do?

I do not tell the VC what to do. Far from it.  He often has to tell me what to do! I would say that my role is to discuss things with him and look into various possibilities.  As the saying goes ‘Four eyes see better than two’.  And very often, I am the one who leaves the conversation having been wisely advised!

When I ‘advise’ the VC, we just talk about the issue at hand.  We look into all aspects of the matter and see how it can be resolved or improved. Every leader needs to have someone with whom she or he can share views and discuss issues.  Just by talking things over, new horizons are opened and one can make a better informed decision.

Your favourite meal?

My favourite homemade meal – pizza made the REAL Italian way. I am really Italian you know. And can you imagine I love fast foods! KFC – their fried chicken and chips especially!