||Name: Gabriel Okong'o Akura
MUM Degree: MA, Science of Creative Intelligence, 1995
Other Degrees: BEd, MEd, MA, EdD
From: Nairobi, Kenya
Passions: Education, the environment, helping Kenyan villagers
Favorite U.S. Vacations: The Grand Canyon, Smithsonian Institution museums (Washington, D.C.)
Fresh out of college in 1984, the last thing Gabriel Okong'o Akura wanted was to start his teaching career in a place like Rageng’ni, a remote Kenyan village of less than 100 people. He would have preferred to remain in his hometown, the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Nairobi, where he could not only teach but also pursue work as a journalist. But city teaching jobs were hard to come by, and the village position was all he could find.
Now, nearly 30 years and five university degrees later, including a Doctor of Education from the University of Missouri and a Master's degree in the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI)* from MUM, Akura plans to return home to help those same Kenyan villagers as a sustainable agricultural entrepreneur and educator. He is already working with financiers to make it happen.
“When I started out I was frustrated in the villages,” recalls Akura, who prefers to go by his last name. “But I did well. I ended up liking it. I realized that teaching was my calling.”
Akura went on to teach biology and geography in various schools in Kenya, including Pangani Girls High School, a top national school.
In those days in Nairobi, advertisement slides were projected in movie theaters before films. Akura saw one that captured his interest: a promotion for the Transcendental Meditation® technique. He soon learned TM. A few years later, in 1991, he received a scholarship to attend MUM (then MIU) and came to the school for his master’s degree.
“I was really into Maharishi's knowledge,” says Akura. “I was excited to come to MUM. A lot of my colleagues who came over from Kenya with me studied business. I just wanted to learn about consciousness.”
Akura, who is currently an assistant professor at MUM, views Consciousness-Based Education, which is the approach used at MUM, as ideal for people who want to make a difference in the world.
“It's great for students who are trying to connect the dots in their lives. When you look at what’s going on in the world, you can start asking the deep philosophical questions. You can get idealistic. You see a lot of suffering out there and you want to do something about it. You want to contribute, you want to right the wrong. That leads you to look within for answers. People who are like that relate well to Consciousness-Based Education and MUM.”
In 2004, Akura earned a Doctorate of Education at University of Missouri, and worked at the school's Center for Human Origin and Cultural Diversity, developing curricula and teaching. His doctoral dissertation explored the nature of scientific knowledge.
Recently, he took his educational aspirations in a different direction at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, where he earned an MA in Theology in 2012. “I'd been nonchalant about
my faith,” says Akura, who is Roman Catholic. “I would go to church on Christmas and Easter but
that was it. After I started TM, I became more attracted to my religion.
I got deeper into it.”
Currently, Akura is studying sustainable business at MUM as he becomes more involved in projects to aid his country. Working remotely, he interfaces with Village 14, a group of 14 retired Kenyan bankers who are bankrolling many projects designed to help the villages. He also travels back home to lead professional development workshops in inquiry-based science and environmental conservation for village teachers and students (photo above, Akura on top left).
Mangos, guavas, and passion fruit grow wild in many Kenyan villages but often go unharvested. Akura, along with Village 14, plans to change that. “We’re bringing in sustainable farming practices and helping villagers find markets in which to sell their produce," he says. "These crops are ideal for juices and jams, which are in demand all over the world.”
Although he works from the U.S., Akura looks forward to his return to Kenya in the next few years, when he will complete a full circle — from the young man who did not appreciate village life to the seasoned professional working passionately to help villagers adapt to and thrive in the modern world.
* The SCI degree at MUM has evolved into the Master’s Degree in Maharishi Vedic Science