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Every seat was taken and more, because as soon as additional chairs were brought in, people filed into Room 100 of the McGowan Building to fill them. The event, drawing people from the greater Monterey Institute community inside on a gorgeous, warm Friday afternoon, was the first “East Africa Forum,” hosted by The African Nations student club, the Design, Partnering, Management and Innovation (DPMI) program, the Center for Social Impact Learning (CSIL), and the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS).

The theme for this first year was “Celebrating Change – Stories of Personal Transformation from East Africa,” and the event brought together students, young professionals, faculty, development professionals, and social entrepreneurs, highlighting personal experiences. The Monterey Institute offers numerous opportunities for aspiring development professionals and change agents to put theory and skills to the test as part of their graduate degree program through various immersive learning programs. Students currently on or recently returned from FMS and DPMI Plus assignments in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya shared their personal stories and transformative experiences, highlighting the faculty emphasis on the importance of reflection and evaluation on “learning journeys.”

The students were joined in their storytelling by alumni, faculty, and staff who have worked, studied, lived, or volunteered in any of the fifteen nations and territories composing the East Africa region. The organizers hope to make this celebration an annual event, with each session beginning with a reflection on the major take-away moment from previous sessions.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir