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Benjamin Munyao ’14 Wins Watson Fellowship

Munyao Also a Projects for Peace Winner as a Sophomore

Benjamin Munyao ’14 Wins Watson Fellowship

Benjamin Munyao ’14, a Colorado College economics major from Nairobi, Kenya, has been awarded a highly selective Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

Munyao’s project, titled “A Walk to Manhood: A Look at the Interplay Among the Society, the Youth and the Elders,” will take him to Ethiopia, New Zealand, Australia, and Ghana as he explores the rituals in these societies that mark the transition from boys to men.

“In most traditional communities, male rites of passage played a vital role of transitioning boys into manhood,” said Munyao. “I will immerse myself into communities that still practice these rites of passage in search of a diverse youth leadership model.” He also will examine the interplay among the youth, elders, and society as a whole. “From this experience, I hope to gain insight on the complex questions surrounding the contemporary youth crisis and whether the disappearance of these rituals could explain some of the crisis. I want to find out if there is value that can only be derived from actually going through these rites of passage and not just reading and hearing about them,” he said.

Munyao also was a Davis Projects for Peace winner in 2012, while a sophomore at CC. His peace project focused on enlightening Kenya’s youth on the importance of peace in the society, equipping them with non-violent ways and tools to deal with disputes, and initiating conversations on alternative leadership.

“My Watson builds on my Project for Peace,” Munyao says. As a Watson Fellow, he will be in search of a diverse youth leadership model. “I am really looking forward to my Watson year as it feeds directly into my passion for Africa and for the youth. I am so excited that I get a chance to do it.”

“It’s not surprising to me that Ben was awarded a Watson Fellowship, as he is one of the most thoughtful and deliberately worldly scholars in our midst,” said Economic Professor Dan Johnson, who is Munyao’s academic advisor. “He seeks out challenge everywhere, whether entering the Big Idea competition with plans to change Kenya’s small business landscape, or writing a senior thesis on health-care pricing in the U.S.”

Munyao, who attended high school at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, chose to come to Colorado College because of the “small, intimate community of scholars” and the college’s Block Plan. Munyao says that post-Watson, he hopes to initiate projects that “focus on helping youth be better prepared to tackle the challenges that face them and our society in general. Specifically, I aim to start an organization that helps young people discover their passion, equip them with the necessary resources, and guide them toward a promising future.”

“Someday I will visit him wherever he is changing the world for the better, and be honored to have played a small part in his growth,” Johnson said.

The Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for independent study and travel outside the United States awarded to graduating college seniors nominated by their institution. The fellowship offers college graduates of “unusual promise” a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel, in international settings new to them, to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.

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