July 20, 2011

Emory Profile

Kenya Casey: Foreign study adviser finds home at Emory

Kenya Casey
Kenya Casey

By Debra Krajnak

No one can deny Kenya Casey's enthusiasm for her job as associate director at Emory Center for International Programs Abroad, or CIPA.

She describes herself as somewhat of a "nomad," having worked or studied in about 16 countries.

Her face lights up when she talks about the students she advises before they go overseas to supplement their Emory education.

Among them is junior Christina Cross, who has been working at CIPA as a peer adviser and who will go abroad this spring as an Institute for International Public Policy Fellow. CIPA uses peer advisers to spread the word about study opportunities.

Casey says she forms close relationships with a lot of the students. "They keep me abreast of what they're doing."

Since coming to Emory in 2006, Casey has made a special effort to reach out to minority students such as Cross, an African American, and encourage them to study abroad.

Some of the students feel it's too expensive, but Casey says there are scholarships available for students who qualify. Among her duties, she acts as liaison for external scholarships.

"I want them to know that it's possible," says Casey, who also is African American. She said only about 4 percent of that minority group nationwide travel to other countries.

When Casey came to Emory in 2006, there was no information on how many African American students had studied outside the United States. She set up the Minority Outreach Initiative, and data is being collected so CIPA can gauge how effective it's been.

Casey advises students interested in her assigned advisory areas: East and Southeast Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. CIPA offers more than 90 programs.

Sometimes international politics can interfere with learning. For example, last fall no students went to Egypt because of the unrest there.

Last year, Casey traveled to South Korea as a Fulbright scholar, an opportunity she sought because South Korea is one of the countries she specializes in. While there, she learned about the culture and education system and interacted with her administrative peers.

She called the Korean visit "the best professional opportunity."

It's possible that Casey got the travel bug at birth. Her father named her after Kenyan activist Jomo Kenyatta, the first prime minister and first president of independent Kenya.

She received a bachelor's degree in psychology from Clark Atlanta University and studied in Ghana as part of her undergraduate curriculum.

"It redirected my career," Casey says. "When I went abroad, a lot of people were doing community work."

Casey decided that instead of working one-on-one with clients as a psychologist, she wanted to pursue a career in social work. She earned her master's degree in that field at Howard University. While there, she spent a summer in Ethiopia, volunteering and doing research.

After graduating, Casey lived in Jamaica for two years to work on an adolescent reproductive health project. Before coming to Atlanta, she worked for the Urban League in Florida, then in a study abroad program in Elizabethtown, Pa. She said she interacts more with students at Emory.

"Of all the places I've lived, I feel more at home here" in Atlanta, Casey says. "I just love this city and I have a lot of friends here."

Reflecting on her travels, Casey says, "I've learned so much about myself – how [different cultures] perceive me and perceive Americans."


She adds: "I really enjoy what I do, and what I really enjoy is working with the students. I learn a lot from them."

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