UN Regional Directors’ Team for Eastern and Southern Africa
Growing up in Kenya, Mwende Caroline Mueke (MPA ’01) felt a strong pull toward public service. Early in her professional career, she worked for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Eastern Africa. In that job it became clear to her that the challenges in her field were more complicated than she had imagined, with refugee camps staying open for decades. To strengthen her education in international public affairs, she enrolled in Wagner’s international program, which focuses on developing countries.
There were several factors that shaped Mwende’s experience at Wagner. Her advisor challenged her to compare the theories she learned in her classes with the practices she saw on the ground with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Mwende’s Capstone project focused on decentralization and local governance in Sub-Saharan Africa – an area that had particular relevance to Mwende’s personal career interests.
Also while at Wagner, Mwende helped organize the Oprah Winfrey Scholars program, which brings two African women each year to NYU Wagner to study public policy and management. “For me,” Mwende says, “as an African woman, doing something to support other African women further their education in public administration (a much needed skill in Africa) was an important effort worth contributing to.”
The experience that Mwende gained at Wagner led to a full-time job after graduating as a program specialist at UNDP. Currently, she is a regional coordination advisor in the Management and Coordination Unit of the UN Regional Directors’ Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, based in Johannesburg. In her free time, Mwende developed an interest in community service and became a founding member of a community-based organization supporting AIDS orphans in Kenya. Mwende looks forward to eventually returning to Kenya in the near future. “I want to use my academic credentials and development experience to work for my country’s public service commission,” she says.