What made you commit to completing your degree?
My commitment to HES stemmed from the learning environment that was granted to me.
My first teacher at HES was Dr. Elisabeth Sharp McKetta. Her knowledge, warm demeanor, and the aura of positivity that she carried with her was an elixir that I needed every single day. She was a necessary ingredient to my Harvard introduction.
All my fears and doubts were put to rest the first day by the way she treated all of us in her class. There was no doubt that she saw us, understood us, and nurtured us and our writing in a way that made us feel a sense of belonging.
The way she gave feedback did not make me feel like I was inadequate, but instead that I had room to grow.
From my first Proseminar class with her, I knew that I wanted to continue this experience to the end. I ended up having numerous classes with Dr. McKetta and in her I have found a writing mentor like no other.
I continued to have exemplary teachers who renewed my commitment to my degree.
Professor New taught poetry in a way that I had never imagined possible. She traveled with me to places in New England and numerous American cities as we explored the contexts of the poems we were studying.
Professor David Barber taught me how to recognize my distinct voice as a Kenyan African woman and use it for my own unique poetry.
Professor Kadish at the residency experience gave us a great learning environment full of intrigue in person throughout that week.
In all these classes, strong communities were built.
The small, signature classes where I felt seen and engaged, had teachers who cared, and met classmates who walked the journey with me, developed an unwavering commitment to HES.
I was a first-generation college student and a first in many other academic achievements. My mother taught me diligence, perseverance, and hard work. While she did not read or write, or speak English, I am holding the pen for her, writing the story inspired by her hard work.
My father taught me English at an early age and planted in me the seeds for this degree.
From being a young girl walking barefoot and squinting over words in borrowed books under the glimmer of candlelight, to earning a Harvard degree in Creative Writing and Literature, I just knew I had to complete this degree.
This is not my story to own, but for the young girls and boys like me around the globe who may see no glimmer of hope in their future; hang on and don’t give up.
My commitment was for this Kenyan story, one that would make my ancestors proud. It was for my parents, and for author Grace Ogot whose books inspired me to read and write at a young age. It was a commitment anchored in highlighting the stories of all who still seek linguistic and other forms of justice in our society.
Most of all, It was for my children who are still working on their stories by shaping their lives, careers and futures, and for generations to come.
What did you do for your capstone project?
In my capstone project, I was working on my memoir, Mama’s Two Wisdoms, a story of the young me growing up in Kenya.
Dr. McKetta’s feedback was invaluable and peer group was instrumental in building strong work that went through rigorous checks until it got the seal of approval.
I am just about to complete my book and I am pleased with my capstone achievement!
What’s something unexpected that you learned about Harvard?
Harvard is a community full of humble, loving people who care deeply about one another. They are not people who swell with negative pride just because they work or go to school at Harvard.
My classmates were accomplished writers, engineers, lawyers, doctors, and professors, yet they all showed up ready to learn and with a positive attitude toward one another.
People accepted and worked with each other in earnest and as equals, respecting all the personal stories that were delivered to the table.
What are you going to miss the most about HES?
I will honestly miss everything about Harvard. For the last few years, my classes and work at Harvard have punctuated my daily life.
I felt that I was a strong part of a closely knit family that did things together and supported one another.
But what I will miss the most are the discussions in our classrooms and the professors who brought great ideas and fun to learning!
Describe your HES experience in one word.