Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

On the Job: Rose Mutiso ’08 Th’08

Cofounder, Mawazo Institute

Rose Mutiso
Photograph courtesy of Rose Mutiso.

The search for the sweet spot where academic rigor meets societal relevance led Kenyan Rose Mutiso to where she is now: CEO and senior research fellow at Mawazo Institute, a Nairobi-based nonprofit she cofounded with Rachel Strohm ’08.

What does the Mawazo Institute do?
Mawazo, which means “ideas” in Kiswahili, is part think tank, part grant-giving organization, and part public engagement shop. It provides research funds and other assistance to female PhD candidates in East Africa through its flagship fellowship program, PhD Scholars. We aim to be a hub for innovative ideas across a broad swath of academic disciplines. By hosting community events, we also create a platform where the public can engage with the researchers around their work in a fun and relaxed setting.

What inspired you, an engineer and research scientist in energy and applied physics, to create the institute?
I always wanted to be a professor, but after getting my PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, I noticed that being in the lab made me feel somewhat isolated and removed from public discourse. I wanted to teach, continue with my research, move back to Kenya, and make an impact there. I reconnected with Rachel (currently a PhD candidate in political science at the University of California at Berkeley) and we started talking about what we could do together. The supply and demand for higher education has exploded in East Africa in recent years and, given our expertise, we thought we could help other female PhD candidates by offering research funds and supplemental instruction in what are often thought of as “soft skills,” such as writing and engaging audiences in discussions about research.

How did Thayer influence you?
Thayer really showed me the possibilities in terms of project- and discussion-based teaching and learning styles. I loved how ENGS 21 immediately requires students to think about answering questions that exist outside the classroom. At Thayer and Dartmouth, you get this emphasis on liberal arts and you get a chance to be young and hopeful. I find that I can still draw from that reservoir of boundless energy and optimism—but I also know how to find that balance between being realistic and feeling like anything is possible.

—Interview by Kristen Senz

Categories: Alumni News, On the Job

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