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Going back to Cali

3 May 2018

While haba na haba has been dormant of late, I have some big news to share: Today is officially my last day teaching at Smith College. My partner and I have accepted positions at UC Riverside. As of July 1, I will be joining the political science department there. I’m thrilled after eight years outside California to be headed back to my home state, especially since we will live so close to my mom. I’m also really excited to work for an institution where so many students are like I was: low-income, first-generation college students fortunate to go to a great public university, in no small part because of Pell grants.

Of course, there’s a lot I’m going to miss about Smith and living in Western Mass. I’ve made some wonderful friends and gotten to do some amazing things. Here are a few things I’m grateful for and will miss (not an exhaustive list — I have to go and teach class now):

I’m particularly grateful for the experience of teaching so many students from African countries. Above, Hilda Nalwanga ’18 🇺🇬 is presenting about her start-up Malako (a fintech company in Uganda offering credit for solar energy packages), just before she won the Smith Prize in Entrepreneurship last year.

Lucky for me, I formed a bond with some of these students from African countries — they even came to my house in the dead of winter and taught me how to make mandasi and samosas and proper chai. Hilda and Priscilla Takondwa Semphere ’18 🇲🇼 pictured in my kitchen reppin’ Smith (and so is Nikki Okondo ’18 🇰🇪, in the corner — not pictured is Meseret Haile ’18 🇪🇹). I don’t have enough Kleenexes for all the tears I’m going to cry at the graduation of these Fab Four. #squadgoals


Last year at Smith, I started a podcast, Ufahamu Africa, with Sarah Agatoni ’17 🇷🇼/🇹🇿. It hasn’t been the same without her, but we had some really great episodes together and I’m hopeful for Ufahamu Africa‘s future.

I also learned a lot from advising Honors Thesis projects, including one by Eliza Cummings ’17 on how soccer can boost nationalism in African countries. Pictured above, she presented her findings at last year’s annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. Her thesis was so 🔥 that she won the Dawes Prize, awarded to the most excellent Government major ever (at least I think that’s what it’s for).

Eliza’s honors thesis and graduation was so special that Oprah Winfrey came (proof of causality not shown). I took this picture as 👑 came through the line of faculty waiting to march into the commencement ceremony — right before I shook her hand. 13-year-old me died and went to heaven; 40-year-old me was also pretty happy.

One of the greatest parts about my time at Smith was how much writing I got done. I finished my book here! Pictured above is the MacLeish Field Station, which has an amazing space where I have hosted writing retreats over the last four years. Without my writing buddies — especially Liz Klarich, Holly Hanson, and Carrie Baker — I don’t know that I would have gotten so much done.

I lived a pretty charmed life in Northampton — especially when I was on sabbatical this fall. I used the time to get research done, but also to feed my soul with time in nature and learning something new and beautiful (🎹). Above is a shot I took of Tully Lake when I was paddling with my friend and fellow mama Tricia Loomis, who is an amazing tour de force for our kids at the local public school and in the community more broadly. Our day together is one of my most cherished memories here in Western MA.

There are a lot of great things for families with small children in Western MA, including the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Above is my little man standing for the obligatory butterfly photo two years ago!

One great benefit of Western MA is how close we are to NYC. That meant many (though still not enough) Kim + Kim Mwingine reunions. This year I crashed in Harlem with Kim, Admir, and Zizou and we got to go to Congo in Harlem. But a couple of years ago, I took the photo above when we picked apples at my fave pick-your-own orchard. I will miss apple-picking as Kim-squared.

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