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Pete Reid Award for Young Alumni

2009 Pete Reid Award for Young Alumni

Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg '01

The 2009 Pete Reid Award for Young Alumni honors a woman who has devoted her life to educating and mentoring young women in her native Kenya.

Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg ’01 founded Akili Dada, an international nonprofit that enables brilliant but impoverished girls in Kenya to attain a secondary-school education. Akili Dada offers full scholarships to the country’s top 1 percent of female scholars who because of poverty would otherwise drop out of school. The scholarships bridge the gap between Kenya’s free primary school education and its free university education for the best performing students.

“Akili Dada is ensuring that poverty does not stop its brilliant young scholars from achieving their full potential,” Kamau-Rutenberg said. “Akili Dada is nurturing the next generation of Africa’s women leaders.”

Since its inception in 2006, Akili Dada has awarded 19 full scholarships, each representing a four-year commitment to a comprehensive educational and mentoring relationship. Akili Dada also provides each of its scholars with intensive mentoring. Scholars are matched with a professional Kenyan woman who volunteers her time to serve as a mentor, meeting with her scholar throughout the year, and sharing her life and professional experiences.

Kamau-Rutenberg was born and lived in Kenya until age 14, when she moved to attend high school in Denver, Colo. At Whitman she majored in politics and minored in gender studies. She earned master and doctoral degrees in political science at the University of Minnesota.

Scholarships made my entire education possible, and Akili Dada is my way of giving back…

— Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg ’01

“Scholarships made my entire education possible, and Akili Dada is my way of giving back and expressing my gratitude for the multiple scholarships that helped me attain my own education at every level since I left Kenya,” she said.

Today she divides her time between her responsibilities as executive director of Akili Dada and as a professor of African and comparative politics at the University of San Francisco. Her teaching and research on African women’s politics also reflect her continued interest in exploring strategies to overcome the challenges facing women on the continent.

When not working she enjoys traveling with her husband, Isaac, tackling home renovation projects, gardening, sewing and knitting. She also is enjoying getting to know her newborn son.

For more information about Akili Dada, visit www.akilidada.org.

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