FINDING HER VOICE:
FAU Honors College Student to Present Research at
Prestigious Conference in South Africa
February 16th, 2014 (Jupiter, FL)—While many students at Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College seek out opportunities to present their original research in a variety of academic settings, few have the opportunity to do so on a different continent. However, Wilkes Honors College junior Mumbi Ngugi will soon be taking her academic research all the way to South Africa to present at the 40th annual conference of the African Literature Association in Johannesburg, where she will have the opportunity to connect with some of the foremost academics in her field.
Ngugi, a third-year student at the Honors College who originally hails from California is no stranger to travel. Last March she travelled alone to Binghamton, New York to present at her first major conference. “It went really well,” remembers Ngugi, “But I met my dad and my brother there, so I wasn’t entirely by myself.” In fact Ngugi’s father, acclaimed author and distinguished professor Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, is responsible for much of Ngugi’s travel experiences, including her first trip to South Africa many years ago. “I don’t remember much from the trip, but I do remember that we were staying in a hotel, and I noticed that most of the other guests were white, and most of the serving staff was black,” she describes. This was Ngugi’s first real exposure to the impacts of the apartheid system. However, this March she will return to South Africa with her paper entitled “Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law as Mimicking a Hobbesian State of Nature and Legalizing De Facto Racial Apartheid,” which she will present to some of the foremost researchers and theorists of African literature in the world. “I heard about the conference from a friend of my father’s, Dr. Ketu Katrack who is a professor of Performance Studies at the University of California, Irvine,” Ngugi explains. Dr. Katrack encouraged her to submit an abstract for the conference, and Ngugi was thrilled a few months later to learn that her paper had been accepted. Thankfully, Ngugi has already had the chance to travel to Africa by herself in order to visit her family in Kenya. “On my way back my flight was delayed and I was stuck all by myself in Brussels for a night.” This was a little nerve-wracking for Ngugi, but she managed to stay calm and make the best of her surprise visit to Brussels. “I think that was great preparation for this trip,” she says with a smile.
While travelling alone to a foreign country to present at a conference may seem daunting, Ngugi feels like she has had many opportunities to prepare for this exciting event. During her time at the Honors College, Ngugi has participated in moot court competitions, which have honed her public speaking skills and trained her to field tough questions. “I’ll also be giving a shorter version of my presentation at the TEDx FAU event on April 18th,” Ngugi states, and she hopes her Honors College classmates and professors will be able to attend. Furthermore, she is currently running for the position of MacArthur Campus Governor, and her preparation for the debates has allowed her to work on making an argument and defending her position, skills that are vital during conference presentations. Her political platform, much like her academic goals, is based on forming connections with other people. “I want every project, or vision, or goal to be based on something that the students need, and I want to do everything in my power to see those things happen,” Ngugi says.
Ngugi is only one year away from completing a triple-concentration in Law and Society, Women’s Studies, and Spanish, and is looking forward to graduation. She plans to attend law school directly following graduation, but is also hoping for the chance to pursue a PhD. “All of my academic interests really come from my time at the Honors College,” explains Ngugi. “I want to write theory, on politics, on race, on gender. I love literature as well; I think both literature and theory are ways to study the world, and I want to have a voice in that study.” After graduation, Ngugi would love to find another small program similar to the environment of the Honors College to pursue her law degree. She hopes to either return to California, or move to the northeastern United States to attend law school. However, no matter where she ends up, Ngugi hopes to continue her multidisciplinary pursuit of understanding and to foster connections between academic fields and the everyday lives of the people around her. Her peers and professors at the Honors College are confident that she will do just that.
About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu