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Change: On Resigning from the University of San Francisco

July 30, 2015
As part of my transitions in 2014 I also resigned from my tenure-track faculty position at the University of San Francisco.  This was a heart-rending decision made even harder by the fact that the University had bent over backwards to support my passion for growing Akili Dada first with a sabbatical then by extending my employment with two years unpaid leave.  I really struggled with the decision to leave a well paying job with fantastic colleagues, great benefits, in a city that I love.
The resignation letter I wrote to my then Dean from Kenya came from the heart:

Its with a very heavy heart that I share with you my intention to resign from my tenure-track faculty position at USF.

After months of agonising I have come to the conclusion that I’m no longer going to be able to remain on a tenure track at USF while pursuing what I feel is my life’s calling to return to the African continent and be a part of the ongoing social transformation here.

As you know, for the last 10 years I have been at the helm of Akili Dada.  You have supported me in this work and because of your encouragement Akili Dada has grown to reach over 20,000 people in communities across Kenya by investing in young women social changemakers like 13 year old Elyne and Akili Dada fellow Caroline.

You had generously allowed me a leave of absence so that I could come to Kenya and devote my efforts to getting Akili Dada ready to outgrow me, its founder.

After 2 years of hard work I’m proud to say that this week was my last week of actively heading Akili Dada.

We have a strong Board of Directors and a dedicated staff team who are passionate about Akili Dada’s mission. After a rigorous interview process the Board of Directors has appointed our own Purity Kagwiria to be the next Executive Director and to ensure that Akili Dada’s work will continue and outgrow its founding vision.  I am excited, and I consider myself lucky that this work chose me. I have given my all and I’m ready to move on.

So, if not Akili Dada then why not return to USF?

The process of deciding to move on from Akili Dada has had me thinking deeply about my life’s calling.  I live an incredibly fortunate life and have had access to privileges and opportunities that so many of my fellow Africans, and especially African women, never get to access.  I started Akili Dada to create opportunities African women whose class backgrounds and life herstories reminded me of my own.  That work is not yet complete.

My years in the U.S., first at Overland High School,  Whitman College, then in grad school at the University of Minnesota, at USF and with Akili Dada have helped me earn skills that are much needed here on the continent.

I love USF, I have grown tremendously at USF. I am deeply drawn to the USF mission and the ways that rigorous academic analysis is rooted in a commitment to create a more just world all while having fun.  These are the things that brought me to San Francisco and they are the things I will miss the most.  And of course you, who have nurtured and supported me and taught me what true leadership looks like.  I will remain in deepest gratitude for the ways you have mentored me, advocated for me, and invested in me.


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