Kathleen Perkins Colson
Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
Name: Kathleen Perkins Colson
School/Class Year: 1979
KSP Program (Semester/Year): Spring ‘78
What is your current profession, and how has your career path evolved since the KSP?
My career path followed a traditional corporate route initially, but my KSP experience constantly drew me back to African issues. I have raised funds for numerous humanitarian and conservation organizations and in 1986 I started my own safari business, African Safari Planners, which allowed me to make frequent visits to East Africa. In 2005, after witnessing the utter failure of so many aid efforts, I started my own organization, The BOMA Project, with co-founder Ahmed Omar, of northern Kenya. As the CEO and Founder, BOMA now consumes all of my professional time, and I spend two to three months of the year in Kenya. I am passionately committed to making a difference in the lives of the poorest and most marginalized residents of Kenya - the pastoralists of the north.
Why did you choose to go to Kenya and how did it fit in with your academic field of study
I chose to go to Kenya because I was a Government major and this was an opportunity to live in a young country with its first President.
How has the KSP influenced your professional/personal life?
The first time I flew on a plane, I flew to Africa for the KSP semester. It was a profound, life-changing experience, something that you come to appreciate even more in retrospect. I was propelled to become more involved in Kenyan and African issues because the media presents a picture of Africa that was at complete odds with my KSP experience and the people that I worked with in the safari business. Working in the north of Kenya is very challenging - the poverty levels are overwhelming and conditions are rough - something that the KSP program also prepared me for. The upside is that working in a very poor area with little infrastructure has forced us to be more innovative and by the end of 2012, The BOMA Project will have established 1145 woman-owned businesses that impacts the lives of over 3900 adults who support over 20,000 children. That's a pretty good day's work, and I attribute much of our success to my KSP experience. For this reason, I am committed to hiring SLU staff and interns - we have one SLU employee in Kenya and have hired seven SLU interns in our US office and one KSP semester intern in our Kenya office.
Why do you think students should apply for the KSP?
No other abroad experience will inspire you like a semester with St. Lawrence University in Kenya. This is your chance to be part of something exciting - the 21st Century is going to be Africa's century - it is the next frontier. You don't want to miss this.