July 18, 2018


Grace Muvunyi knew she wanted to help people. She simply didn’t know how.

Then Muvunyi started her Regis University course work at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya three years ago. As class valedictorian for the Kakuma 2018 graduating class of Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL), she found the spirit of social work.

“I found I need to go meet my clients in their various needs to help them,” Muvunyi said.

With that, Muvunyi led 33 of her classmates across the stage to accept a Diploma in Liberal Studies from Regis University on Monday. Muvunyi’s need to help people – and figuring out how – was one instance of the innovation, creativity and human spirit at the Kakuma Refugee Camp and JWL graduation celebration.

“Today,” Muvunyi said to her classmates, “we’ve learned to become professional communication social change agents. We can change the world.” 

The diploma is offered to refugees in camps across the world. The 45-credit-hour diploma includes 30 core credits in liberal studies and 15 credits in one of three specialties: social work, education or business. Students attend classes in the camps that are taught online by professors at Jesuit institutions across the world. 

“You have accomplished something marvelous,” said Regis President John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J., who was in attendance. “Please keep that word marvelous in your hearts. You really achieved something marvelous. And you know you can change lives for the better. You can change the world for the better and our world sorely needs you. In many ways you are a mini (United Nations). You really are an example for the rest of the world.”

After beginning in 2010, the program has matured to include 20 learning centers in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the United States. JWL plans to add 26 more learning centers this year and hopes to serve more than 4,600 refugees in language or professional courses, and through the Regis diploma program.

Graduates often become leaders in their communities, spreading a passion for giving back. For many, they continue their education by applying to bachelor programs at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, among others.

“As we’ve found, the refugees are not doing this job to get a job,” said Armando Borja, JWL’s chief operations officer. “They’re doing this to create jobs. They are doing this to help their communities.”

The graduates were the sixth group of students to pass through the program in Kakuma. The refugee camp north of Kenya on the South Sudan border has more than 189,000 refugees from 19 countries.

Many of the graduates start businesses or lead community-based organizations within the camp. They include CARLEC, which provides cultural adjustment and general health services, and URISE, which uses technology to teach social entrepreneurship. The JWL program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission; credit hours will transfer to schools across the United States.

“One thing I’ve realized is that this program at Jesuit Worldwide Learning represents the best of Jesuit higher education in the world,” Father Daniel Hendrickson, S.J., president of Creighton University, told the graduates. “Students of Africa know the importance and power of education."

On Friday, July 20, Fitzgibbons and Hendrickson will hand out about 20 diplomas to JWL program graduates at the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi.