After growing up in a village at the foot of Mount Kenya, the highest point in Kenya, Dr. Sabinah Wanjugu, Assistant Professor of Marketing, decided it was time for a change of scenery and joined the USI family in 2020.
From fourth grade through high school, Dr. Wanjugu attended a boarding school and after, continued her education by earning bachelor’s degrees in economics and sociology from Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya. After graduating, she bravely packed her bags and set off in search of her next adventure, leaving her family, including a brother and sister, and the life she once knew behind.
After her move to the U.S., Dr. Wanjugu concurrently pursued her MBA and doctorate in business education from Louisiana Tech University and, after all her hard work, landed a job at USI, where she spends her days sharing her knowledge with students and other faculty members on campus.
Being thousands of miles away from family can be a challenge, but learn how Dr. Wanjugu adjusted to life in the U.S. and some of the lessons and hobbies she’s learned along the way.
Let's get to know Dr. Sabinah Wanjugu!
What attracted you to USI?
When I was approaching the end of my doctoral journey, I started applying for teaching jobs and luckily landed an interview with USI held in Chicago at the AMA Marketing conference. After a 30-minute interaction with Dr. Milewicz, our current Marketing Chair, and other members of the USI faculty present during the interview, I was sold. The level of collegiality they demonstrated was just what I was looking for. When I finally got a chance to come to campus and interact with students, faculty and staff, I was thrilled by the friendly and supportive ambiance all around. USI is a place where everyone feels at home.
What does the average workday look like for you?
I start off my workday with a big cup of coffee! My workday activities include reading and sending students emails with class updates, attending college or department meetings and attending research project collaboration meetings with colleagues. However, most of my workday involves getting ready for classes and conducting lectures. There is nothing as fulfilling as being prepared for class and seeing students enjoy class activities you have prepared for them!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Growing up, my mom always gave the best advice—one that I hold dear is from a Swahili proverb, “Mtaka cha mvunguni sharti ainame,” which translates to; if you want to get something you have stored under the bed, then you must stoop to get it. My mom used this proverb to remind me that success is not easily attained, it takes effort and hard work to attain. I use this advice as my motivation to keep striving for the things I desire in life, and that hard work and dedication pays off in the long run.
What do you treasure most in life?
Family family, family! I have two siblings who are so dear to me. We have a very close relationship and care a lot for each other. I especially began appreciating my connection to my family when I migrated to the U.S., The distance between us makes me miss the times we spent together, laughing, sharing, and supporting each other through life.
What movie/TV character do you relate to the most?
Nakia from Black Panther—Nakia’s character is portrayed as empathetic, intelligent and dedicated. She consistently gets involved in conflicts for the good of others and is adamant to use her abilities to help those in need. I am a hardworking and dedicated woman who will go out of my way to help whenever and wherever I might be needed. I might also relate to this character more because it’s played by one of the best Kenya actresses, Lupita Nyong'o.
What is one of the strangest things you believed as a child?
I believed that if I walked straight for miles to the edge of the earth, I could reach the flat line where the sky seemed to meet the earth and touch the horizon.
Would you say you are more of an introvert or extrovert?
Definitely an introverted extrovert. I am quite reserved in the beginning; I tend to gage social platforms first until I establish my comfort zone. Once I get comfortable with the environment, then my extroverted self-starts to show. Overall, I would say that I enjoy being with others, but my personal time and space are both priorities.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Since finishing my doctorate, I have taken up a few new hobbies. I am currently learning golf and tennis which I am enjoying quite a bit. I also like to watch a good movie or TV show or read an enjoyable book, my favorite genre being memoirs. I love reading memoirs because there is nothing as informative as learning from another person’s experience or story. I also enjoy traveling and love that Evansville is conveniently located for impromptu weekend trips to various cities and national/state parks.
What is your favorite day of the week? Why?
My favorite day of the week is Sunday. This is the day I get to catch up with most of my family members who are in Kenya. Due to the time difference, it is usually hard to stay connected during the weekdays. I look forward to the long video calls and getting updates of how things are back home. This year has been even more eventful, since my sister had her first baby boy. I have watched him grow via video, and it melts my heart every time he sees me through the small screen, he smiles and babbles “tata,” meaning Aunt in Swahili.
What has working at USI taught you?
Having started my job at USI in the middle of a pandemic, this past year has taught me the virtue of being resilient. I saw USI’s students, faculty and staff rise to the occasion and strive through the tough times. I know better days are coming but being at USI through one of the most challenging years will always be engraved in my mind, not only because it was a challenging time, but mostly because of how we all came together to successfully navigate every challenge with resilience, dedication and support for each other. Go Screagles!
Which famous person, dead or alive, would you want to spend the day with?
I love Oprah Winfrey—she is legendary. I would love to spend a day with Oprah because she has always been my biggest inspiration. She is an example of a woman who has shattered the glass ceiling through hard work and dedication. Despite many challenges, Oprah was able to reach the highest level of success and is an inspiration to many people. I would take an opportunity to spend a day with Oprah and pick her brain on diverse topics such as living a happy life, being successful, healthy living, relationships and many more topics of which she is an expert in.
What would be the title of your memoir?
“You’ve got this!” I take a positive approach to life because I realized that life is full of ups and downs. Life will throw some challenges, but I always remember to seek happiness and to accept the things I cannot change. Diane Von Furstenberg quotes in one of her books I am currently reading, “The secret to life is to learn how to accept our imperfections and turn those into assets.” I try to live by those words every day.
This Getting to Know You feature was written by Tobi Clark, a student worker in University Communications.