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C-Ring Award Winner Works On Behalf
of Women, Here and Abroad

Date: May 15, 2001
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photo By: Dottie Stover
Archive: Campus News

The resume of Lisa Kathumbi, the 2001 winner of the C-Ring Award at the University of Cincinnati, reads like someone who has 20 years of work experience, rather than a college senior about to graduate. Kathumbi has researched and supported the development of women's humans rights programs in Washington, D.C. She has researched legal cases for a women's center in Botswana. She served as a legal clerk in the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, under Judge Nathaniel R. Jones.

Lisa Kathumbi

As the winner of the C-Ring Award, she now has yet another accomplishment to add to her curriculum vitae. Her selection for the university's top award to a graduating female was announced at a banquet at Kingsgate Conference Center on Saturday evening, May 12. Kathumbi will also be among the students recognized at the University Recognition Ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 20, also at Kingsgate.

"She is the ideal, the perfect C-Ring award winner," praises Chris Bobel, director of the UC Women's Center. "She has been engaged in her community, has excelled academically and has worked as an advocate for women."

Center assistant director Robin Arnsperger oversees the award selection process, in consultation with a committee. C-Ring Award winners are selected on the basis of scholarship, campus leadership, service to the Cincinnati community, advocacy for women and personal development.

Adds Bobel, who knows Kathumbi from her work at the Women's Center the past four years, "She leads with quiet strength. She is solid and reliable. She is wonderful role model with younger students."

Kathumbi's activities at the Women's Center alone would fill a resume. Since 1998, she has worked part time as a resource educator. In this capacity, she aided in the coordination of a childcare referral service. She also worked to publicize and promote awareness of women's issues and programs, designed flyers, posters and handbills, and managed the center's resource library.

The 22-year-old Kathumbi doesn't just contribute by helping with the nitty-gritty. "The reason she has been such an asset to the Women's Center is she pushes us to grow," said Bobel. A few years ago, she pointed out that the Women's Center didn't do much to serve nonwhite women on campus. Then, she followed up her criticism by taking action. She helped to conceive the Food 4 Thought program, a lunch-and-lecture series that addresses the issues of women of color.

During her first year at UC, she volunteered as a peer educator with the campus Students Organized Against Rape program and worked as a court advocate for Women Helping Women during her junior year. This year, she remains active as a holiday volunteer with the Ronald McDonald House, which provides housing to parents of hospitalized children, and as a Peace Pal with the Center for Peace Education, a United Way agency. The peace program takes her into a third-grade class once a week for an hour to talk about peaceful means of resolving conflicts. It's one of her favorite activities.

Academically, Kathumbi also excels. She majors in political science, but is also earning certificates in women's studies and global studies - while keeping up a 3.7 grade point average. Two of her political science teachers, Laura Jenkins and Thomas Moore, point to a pair of particularly challenging assignments to demonstrate her maturity and intellect. She forcefully and knowledgeably represented Cuba in a simulation of the 1999 World Trade Organization summit. The other was a research paper, "Common and Customary Laws of Botswana: Implications for Women's Development," which captured the difficult position of women in a post-colonial country trying to revive native systems while protecting their rights as women.

That latter builds on Kathumbi's legal internship at the Methaesile Women's Information Center in Bostwana in southern Africa. Her position was arranged through the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights at the UC College of Law in a nation where women tend to seek justice first from a traditional, tribal court system before turning to the civil courts of common law. Support for the internship came from the Summer Work Experience in Law (SWEL) program.

A graduate of Dayton's Colonel White High School and the daughter of Kenyan immigrants to the United States, Kathumbi helped to run domestic violence workshops at traditional village meetings in Botswana, through a center founded by Unity Dow, now the nation's first female high court judge. The most enjoyable part of this overseas experience, Kathumbi found, was writing op-ed pieces for an English-language newspaper.

She came home from the summer abroad in 2000 appreciating a simpler way of life. Often, in the United States, she says, family and friendships can be lost in the crunch of deadlines. "But in Botswana when they ask, 'How are you,' they would take that seriously."

Her campus activities have included serving as an officer of the Political Science Honor Society, president and co-founder of the Ethnic Minorities Interested in Legal Education, women's chair of the Student Advisory Committee on the Univerity Budget and as treasurer and member of the Political Action Committee-NAACP. But that's not all. She also served as programming director of ADVANCE, a professional development program for African Americans.

This fall, Kathumbi will head to University of Chicago to earn her master's degree in international relations. Her next goal is to graduate from law school. Someday, she hopes to continue to work in women's advocacy in much the same way she has already begun as an undergraduate student at UC.

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