By Patience Nyange and Esther Kiragu
This week on the #KenyaWomenSeries, we feature a Communications Guru and trendsetter. Sr. Prof. Agnes Lucy Lando is the first and only Catholic nun/sister working at Daystar University in Kenya.
She currently serves as the Director of Research and Graduate Studies, an Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies. She is also the Chair of Daystar University Ethics Review Board.
Lando lives by the mantra; “Love and serve where you are needed but not wanted and leave when you are wanted but not needed.” She has an expansive wealth of experience in academia besides being a consistent writer who has been published widely in various journals.
1. Briefly introduce yourself to us. Who is SR. Prof Agnes Lucy Lando?
I am a Catholic nun belonging to the Missionary Institute of the Sisters of Mary of Kakamega. My three names are all special to me; Agnes is my baptismal name, Lucy my confirmation name and Lando in my culture means brown complexion.
Academically, I am a top-grade scholar of Communications and Media Studies having had the rare opportunity to study in world-class universities. Both my undergraduate and Master’s degrees are from Daystar having obtained a B.A in Audiovisual Productions and an M.A in Human and Intercultural Communication. My PhD is in Social Communication from The Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italia. I am also the only Catholic nun with a PhD in Communications and Media Studies in Kenya, and perhaps in East Africa. (Wow! This is a huge achievement!)
Because of my vast administration work experience, I am a hands-on and results-oriented transformative leader, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and in practice, strive to observe Christian and work ethics, teamwork, and team spirit.
In the face of challenges, I endure, guided by my life mantra: “To love and serve where you are needed but not wanted, and leave when you are wanted but not needed.” I am a recipient of the 2013 George Gerbner Excellence AwardSince 15th June 2020, I am the incumbent Director of Research and Graduate Studies at Daystar University.
I am also an Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies, and the Chair of Daystar University Ethics Review Board (DU-ERB). Since I am very passionate about the profession, MA Communication students and I co-founded Master Communicators Welfare Association (MCWA) in 2013 which I am now the patroness. The association raises funds for financially challenged but academically able MA Communications students. Today, more than 10 students have received a scholarship through the association. (Well done!)
At the core of the Directorate of Research and Graduate Studies (DRGS) is the dream of fostering world-class value-based scholars, research, and publications through advancing innovative ethical scholarship. Immediately after my appointment, I managed to secure a broad-based collaboration with the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) that resulted in two research studies.
2. Talk to us about your career journey highlighting the significant achievements and the events around them? How have you managed to rise to the management level? What is your story?
My academic scholarship and mentorship efforts have been recognized by the prestigious International Communication Association. Hence in October 2016, I was elected the first African to the position of Board of Directors, the first African to hold such a position in the over 60 years old Association. This academic association is headquartered in Washington DC and every year I sit in the Board of Governors meeting to plan and offer direction to the Association for scholars interested in the study, teaching and application of all aspects of human and mediated communication.
Additionally, I am a vivid fundraiser who has managed to raise funds for international (academic) conferences and research training workshops in support of graduate students and early-career scholars from Africa. These have been held in Kenya (Nairobi at Daystar University, 2016, Uganda (Entebbe, in 2017) and Ghana (Accra, in 2018). Excluding other monies raised from the Conference, I managed to have ICA send over USD 45, 000 for the mentioned conferences and training sessions.
Because of my direct involvement with ICA, a number of graduate students and early-career scholars from Africa do access conference registration waivers, partial travel grants and secure affordable accommodation in Europe, Asia or North America during the annual ICA Conference. Between 2015-2019, almost USD 100, 000 has been spent on the partial travel grant and registration waiver on African delegates, which I facilitate.
My track record has earned me appointments as an External Examiner in many Universities in Africa including; Makerere University, St. Augustine University of Tanzania, Nelson Mandela University (SA), University of Rwanda, University of Ghana and Pan Africa Christian University. I am also a Member of the Council at – Tangaza University College (since 2020); and Council Academic Chair – Tangaza University College (since 2020) and also served as a member of Council of Uzima University of Health and Social Sciences. In 2019-2020 I served on the Nominating Committee - for the 2020 International Communication Association (ICA) Elections.
3. You are lauded as widely published in the field of academia and in research and serve as a research consultant to key individuals and organizations in the region. Please share with us what your experience with research and publishing has been?
Both Research and publication are my passion. I have conducted research locally and internationally. With both, you require patience, dedication and sacrifice.
Over the years, I have published numerous publications in Communication Ethics, Higher Education in Africa, The Critical Role of Crisis Communication Plan in Corporations’ Crises Preparedness, Communication Theory, Rumours on Social Media; and Kenya’s subtle 2013 Post-Election Violence. I sit on the editorial Board of Francis and Taylor Publications of the Journal of Children, Adolescent and the Media (CAM), and as an Associate Editor of Frontier Communications.
4. Based on your experience as a woman, what lessons have you learnt about dealing with unconscious bias, breaking barriers, influencing, and occupying decision-making positions?
My religious formation (as a sister) prepared me adequately for the REAL world that I would serve in. I have experienced both conscious and unconscious bias and successfully came through. I have done this through prayers and meditation. My day always starts and ends with prayers.
Regarding barriers, I am a bold go-getter and so when I see an opportunity for my institution or for humanity, I will stretch myself to get it. For example, when I saw that the International Communication Association (ICA) is an excellent association, but Africans were literally not members, I stood up in Washington Seatle (USA) and questioned the lack of inclusion of those of us from an African background. That was the birth of the ICA-Africa. I ended up being elected to the board, thus the first African to sit on that coveted board.
With regard to occupying decision-making positions, one has to find his/her way there. It won’t come on a silver platter! So, when you see an opportunity that fits you, go for it!
5. None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person(s) who you are grateful towards who held your hand along your career journey? Can you briefly share a story about that?
Yes, I am grateful to my three special mentors. They have literally played a huge role in making me who I am today.
The first one is my Spiritual Director who has journeyed with me for many years. He directs my spiritual life and offers much-needed counsel. He has taught me to give even when what I have is little and challenged me to help the youth, especially those branded as bad in society. In his words, “Today’s seeds, tomorrow’s harvest.”
The second person is the one who made me complete my Doctoral studies in a record of two and half years, instead of three. This scholar interviewed me when I was applying for my doctorate studies. He made me understand that Africa needed me after my Doctoral studies and I needed to complete my PhD within the given three years and return to Africa (Kenya) to serve. I promised I would do so without much thought. That promise would prick my heart and mind every day. It became my guide and motivation to focus and complete my studies.
Lastly, there is a Sister who has been part and parcel of my religious life. We joined the Congregation the same day and have journeyed together to date. This is the sister who reminds me to live my vowed religious life. We pray together and encourage each other to stay on course.
6. If you were to choose the two most important values that shape the way you live by and keep you grounded, what would they be and why?
- My religious devotion. On making the first religious vows, my institute requires that every Sister takes a devotion in the Church. My religious devotion is the Holy Cross and that guides my daily Christian life.
- Daily meditation. I begin and end my day with prayers followed by silent mediation. In the quiet of that moment, I hear God directing my thoughts and actions for the day.