Drury professor moves to Tanzania for teaching and research

Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a great adventure, or nothing.” Drury professor Erin Kenny is opting for the adventure. Beginning today, Kenny and her seven-year-old daughter Kiera will move to the east African country Tanzania where Kenny will teach and conduct research as a Fulbright Scholar for the next 10 months.

Dr. Erin Kenny

Kenny, an associate professor of anthropology, will teach graduate courses in development studies for the Center for Gender Development at the Morogoro campus of Mzumbe University. This is not Kenny’s first trip to Africa.  From 1995-1997, Kenny lived in Mali as a Peace Corps volunteer and she did doctoral research in Guinea in 2003 where she met her former husband and Kiera’s father. She also visited the continent three other times. Like any mother, Kenny has concerns about taking her daughter to Africa.   “If there’s any time to bring a 7-year-old, it’s through the Fulbright program. I will work through the U.S. embassy. We’re really fortunate. In the Horn of Africa today, there are mothers of 15,000 children dying every day from famine and disease.”

Dr. Kenny with Mariame Kaba. A woman who worked on women's health issues in Africa.

It’s those women that Kenny has studied during her career. In Tanzania, Kenny will continue her research on women wage earners and household heads that she has conducted in Mali, Guinea and Jamaica. She’s found that women invest differently than men, “Men often invest in high risk, high reward businesses. Women will invest in a goat or a uniform so children can go to school. When women are wage earners, the nutritional and educational profile of the household improves.”

Ultimately, Kenny hopes that through her research and advocacy, she can improve lives. “The system breaks down for poor people over and over again. That’s why I keep doing what I do, to try to get policy makers to listen to researchers.”