GMAP Celebrates First Alumni Weekend in Nairobi

Students and alumni discuss climate, international development, and conservation
Four attendees pose together at the GMAP Alumni Weekend in Nairobi

GMAP students and alumni convened in Nairobi, Kenya earlier this month for high-level discussions on development, climate, and gender both on the continent and globally.

A hybrid degree program comprised of online instruction and in-person residencies, Fletcher’s Global Master of Arts Program (GMAP) this year hosted its first international student residency and alumni weekend in Kenya.

GMAP alumni, students, faculty, and staff were excited by the decision to host the program in Nairobi. The city is home to the largest concentration of Fletcher alumni living and working in Africa, and Kenya is an important global player as a hub of business, sustainable development, finance, and transportation in the region.

During the weeklong residency leading up to the alumni weekend, GMAP students enjoyed valuable time with each other and opportunities to connect with NGOs and international organizations around Nairobi. In the Red Team Exercise, a scenario-driven training based upon real world international conflict, students practiced groupthink mitigation, cultural empathy, and alternative future analysis tools. The cohort also met with prominent actors and leaders around the city. They traveled to the Safaricom Headquarters, the largest telecommunications provider in Kenya, which will be part of a case study in their Poverty and Development course with Kim Wilson this spring. At the United Nations Africa Headquarters, they received climate briefings from important actors at the UN Environment Programme.

“These types of programs often attract professionals who are not only bright, but extremely curious in both a cultural and intellectual sense,” Makélé Saïdi F23 said of the residency. A GMAP student, Saïdi traveled to Nairobi from Toronto, where she is Catalyst’s director of corporate engagement for central Canada.

“The residency expands the kinds of friendships built, and conversations had, because people come in humble and eager to learn from one another. Spending time together in-person as a result is extremely fulfilling,” Saïdi added.

After a full week of residency programming, the alumni weekend commenced on Friday, January 13, with a keynote address from Professor PLO Lumumba, a renowned Pan-Africanist, anti-corruption activist, and Kenyan lawyer. The program hosted alumni from five Fletcher degrees, 16 class years, and 22 countries. Additionally, current GMAP students were able to participate in the full weekend of events for the first time, connecting with alumni who live and work throughout Africa. The alumni panels were coordinated through instrumental support from the Fletcher Club of Nairobi and alumni Stephen Seda F22, Trish Manzke F18, Samir Bajaj F19, and Anne Angwenyi F02.

Four people sit in discussion on a panel for the GMAP Alumni Weekend.

Saturday’s panels centered around the theme of Africa’s role in global affairs. Conversations took place between notable GMAP alumni on conclusions from the US-Africa Leaders Summit in DC last month, the value of the continent’s natural resources in light of climate change, and the state of political affairs in Kenya following the country’s 2022 presidential election. Panels were thorough and interdisciplinary; topics spanned from “Women in Business: Equity and Its Impact on Economic Development in Africa” to “Governance, Climate Change, Humanitarian Crisis, and Resilience in Fragile States.”

“The GMAP Alumni weekend was a great forum to meet and build contacts,” said Avantika Singh F23, a GMAP student and journalist with India Today from New Delhi. “I got a chance to interact and network with alumni, hearing about their experiences and the various opportunities upon completion of the program.”

Singh also appreciated hearing from key stakeholders and meeting a diverse group of participants in engaging panel discussions. Dean Kyte, a GMAP alumna F02, joined other Fletcher alumni in, “A Confluence of COP: How can the international community connect the dots on global environmental challenges?” Saturday’s program concluded with a keynote from Kaddu Sebunya F02, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation.

“The caliber of the alumni who joined us was inspirational,” said Saïdi. “You are in a room filled with people from every corner of the world, who are changemakers in their respective fields. But perhaps what was most amazing was how helpful and warm they are—a true reflection of the Fletcher DNA.

Read more about Fletcher's GMAP Degree Program