Teresa Wasonga

Professor, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

 Teresa Wasonga

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
University of Nairobi, Kenya (B.Ed.); Kenyatta University, Kenya (M.Ed.); University of Missouri, Columbia (Ed.D.)

In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

Were you a first-generation college student? If so, what advice would you offer to current first generation students?
Yes. My advice would be to think and act in ways that you can achieve the change you want in your life, family, community, country and the world at large.

What do you like about working at NIU?
NIU is welcoming and open to change based on evidence. I have seen a lot of positive changes in my 20 years at NIU and all because of constant critical thinking and innovation with a focus on what is best for the university community and the areas it serves.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Where you currently are is the best place you could be. Take advantage of all the resources, both human and otherwise, that are available to you. Where you go from here and what you achieve will depend on what you gain from NIU today.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
My research focus is school leadership and improving organizational learning among schools. Currently, I am working with a secondary school for girls in Kenya that I co-founded. We are looking at engaged learning/pedagogy and how that can be enhanced in Kenyan context. I am also actively engaged in research looking at school violence and how this can be explained and alleviated.

What do you enjoy most about mentoring students?
I learn more from them as we work together to be better.

What do you hope students take away from their college experience?
College is the best place to learn and make mistakes. Take advantage of it so you leave college knowing who you are and your role in changing society.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
When I received recognition for my work by being named a Presidential Engagement Professor.

What’s one thing about NIU that’s surprised you?
I did not expect to stay at NIU for 20 years, but surprisingly I have because the work environment keeps changing for better.

What fulfills you personally and professionally?
What fulfills me personally and professionally is that I have been given all the tools I need to be the best teacher I can be at NIU. My personal joy comes from fulfilling my personal and professional obligations.

Which of NIU’s core values align with your own?
NIU’s core values are in themselves interdependent. Excellence cannot be achieved without equity and inclusion, integrity, collaboration and service. As such, all of the NIU core values align with my own. I aspire to be excellent at everything I do to get the best outcomes. I also understand that excellence is an ideal we aspire to and that can only be achieved by working together with integrity and social justice.

Have you contributed to any NIU Foundation fundraising campaigns such as the Day of Giving or Huskies United? If yes, why did you decided to support NIU?
I have contributed to a variety of fundraising campaigns because of the mission.

Do you keep in touch with any NIU alums? If so, are there any doing something interesting and exciting that we should know about? Please share some information with us and we’ll consider them for a future feature. 
Yes, I do. I continue to work with them professionally, and this year an NIU alum and I visited the Philippines and Jamaica for professional engagement.

Who has influenced your professional path?
Although my mother only had a third-grade education, she influenced me the most. Despite her not having the opportunity to go further in education, she was a fierce defender of education as a way to better oneself. I took that to heart and decided to begin with myself.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I always wanted to be a school leader when I grew up. I experienced two principals during my secondary education who were complete opposites in their understanding of school leadership. One was very progressive, the other traditional (autocratic). Both inspired me in different ways. The first principal was one I considered an excellent school leader, and the second was what I considered horrible school leadership. I wanted to do everything the first did and more, and I wanted to prove that children do not have to suffer under authoritarian school leadership to thrive. I was not able to become a school leader as I went into university teaching, but I have co-founded a school where I am proving my hypothesis.

Are you participating in or have you participated in any NIU shared governance or professional development groups? If so, how has your participation enhanced your experience as an employee?
Yes. These are some of the best things about NIU. I cannot count the number of professional development groups I have participated in. All I can say is, the opportunities abound, and they have made me a better teacher and person.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional or community organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I have been plenum session representative (PSR) on behalf of NIU at the University Council of Education Administration (UCEA). UCEA is a consortium of higher education institutions committed to advancing the preparation and practice of educational leaders for the benefit of schools and children. Within UCEA, the plenum establishes goals and priorities, reviews and approves organizational policies, and examines and approves the budget. The plenum is composed of one representative from each of the member institutions. I get to update my program on emerging issues, policies and interventions. I am also the Midwest regional representative for the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association. This organization provides an avenue for sharing and learning from others' research. This information informs my teaching and dissertation supervision.

What community organizations are you involved in?
Friends of Jane Adeny Memorial School, Sango Association and ZamZam Foundation Inc.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
Read, dance and farm.

Back to top