UHV associate professor’s passion for teaching dates back to first job in Kenya
John Kagochi, University of Houston-Victoria associate professor of economic development, said while his journey to becoming a college professor was not easy, it was paramount he pursue his passion for teaching.
Kagochi, a native of Kenya, said he grew up at a time when teachers were revered. In fact, teachers in Kenya were so respected that they weren’t mentioned by name.
“He or she was only called ‘teacher’ and was always the smartest person,” Kagochi said. “Everyone in the village went to him for wisdom and counsel.”
Kagochi’s early experiences and observations shaped his desire to become a teacher. His first experience as a teacher was after he finished his “A” levels, the U.S. equivalent to honors classes. He was hired to teach high school as an untrained teacher before starting his undergraduate studies.
“I enjoyed teaching mathematics and chemistry, but my biggest joy was to help students who had difficulties understanding mathematics during the teachers’ volunteer holiday coaching camp that I formed in the village school,” he said. “It’s success, and the respect I earned from the village, emboldened me to want to become a teacher. My passion for the career never wavered, although it would take years for me to actualize my dream.”
Kagochi traveled from the highlands of Kenya to Tuskegee University in Alabama to pursue graduate school. While there, the professor who was teaching the Swahili language resigned, leaving 30 students without an instructor. He accepted the offer to teach the class.
“I adjusted to the U.S. system of education, especially the concern college professors showed to their students’ progress,” he said. “I also saw how effectively courses were taught and the respectful engagement that existed between the students and faculty.”
He later pursued his doctorate at Auburn University in Alabama. By his third year into his graduate program, Kagochi taught part time as a visiting professor at Auburn University-Montgomery in the Economics Department.
Kagochi believes economics is a transformational, driving force for a nation’s growth.
“For someone from a developing country, economic development is one of the areas that people look at with great hope,” he said. “In areas that have a lot of needs or wants, people always look at the field of economics as where there can be salvation.”
Since many Africans don’t have the opportunities found in the U.S, economic development is a way to increase income levels, Kagochi said.
“The only way we are going to bridge developed and developing countries is through the area of economics,” Kagochi said. “Economics actually touches everything from healthcare and education to the security of a government. It affects the kind of life people live and how long they are going to live. That is why I like economics. It bridges all areas of study. Economics is an art and a science.”
Kagochi is the coordinator of student capstone projects for the Master of Science in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship at UHV.
“In some fields, you write a thesis, but we require you write a project,” he said. “The reason why we require a project is we want you to try to give us something real. The project involves students studying complete, real-life projects. We want it to be practical. We monitor them throughout the project.”
Kagochi’s primary teaching interests are economic development and business statistics. His research interests are diverse and include international trade and competitiveness, regional economic development and the role of domestic institutions on economic growth.
“When UHV offered me a faculty position in the School of Business Administration, I knew that I would be a part of a great community of colleagues and students,” he said. “Now that I am in my eighth year of teaching, I have never regretted it, and I remain thankful for being a part of the UHV community.”
Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s three schools. To nominate a faculty member, contact Jeremy Shapiro, UHV communications manager, or call 361-570-4296.
Melony Overton, special to UHV