Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Olive Mugenda - First Woman Vice Chancellor of a Public University in Kenya
In March 2006, Prof Olive Mugenda of Kenyatta University (KU) made history in Kenya by becoming the first woman to be appointed the Vice Chancellor (VC) of a public university. What is also notable about Prof Mugenda’s feat is that she was selected through a competitive open recruitment process and beat three male professors to clinch the post, demonstrating that in some cases a woman may just be the ‘best man for the job’!
Olive Mugenda has built an impressive track record of quality leadership through her professional contribution towards improving the quality of education in Kenya. Prior to her appointment as VC, she was KU’s Deputy VC in charge of Finance and Planning for four years.
After she received her PhD in Family and Consumer Studies from Iowa State University in 1988, Prof Mugenda taught in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, rising to become the head of department and later the Dean of the Institute of Applied Human Sciences. She also served as the Director of KU’s International Students’ Summer Program.
In the course of her teaching career, Olive Mugenda specialized in women’s education, home economics, statistics and research methodology. She also contributed towards the restructuring and diversification of the home economics curriculum at KU, placing greater emphasis on emerging topics such as environmental sciences, public health and HIV/AIDS management.
She has led several programs in support of girls’ education in Kenya at primary, secondary and university levels, and has received several awards in honour of her efforts in this regard. These include the 2007 Eastern and Southern Africa Management Institute MBA Meritorious Award, the 2006 Elder of the Burning Spear presidential award, the 2002 KU Exemplary Service Award, the 2000 Atlas Alumni Award and Iowa State University’s 1982 Phi Kappa Phi Achievement Award.
KU recently made two noteworthy achievements under Prof Olive Mugenda’s watch as VC. In May 2008, the university was recognized as the best performing state corporation in the 2006-07 performance contract evaluations. In the same month, KU received ISO 9001:2000 quality certification for its excellence in accountability and operations. Of the seven public universities in Kenya, KU is the only one so far to receive an ISO certification.
KU’s star is shining brightly under Prof Olive Mugenda’s leadership and I believe that she can and will do even more to lead further improvements in quality of education and service delivery at the institution.
Olive Mugenda’s accomplishments are a source of inspiration to Kenyan women to strive for excellence in their careers, aim high and not shy away from competing for top-level jobs, especially in the public sector.
Kudos Prof Mugenda!