Campus Engagement Lands Southeast Kenyan Student Internship with City of Joplin


NelsonMwangi_WTD_News (1)JOPLIN, Mo., July 22, 2015 – Sometimes, it takes a village. For Southeast Missouri State University senior Nelson Mwangi of Nairobi, Kenya, he is grateful for that network and the opportunities it has afforded him.

Mwangi has come a long way — from Africa to Cape Girardeau and now to the City of Joplin, Missouri, this summer — where he is interning and getting a firsthand look at human resources operations through American city government.

Mwangi, who is interning with the City of Joplin for eight weeks this summer, learned about the opportunity after connecting with Brian Kelly, a recent Southeast graduate and former student Regent now serving as the assistant to the City Manager of Joplin. The two, who worked together in the Office of Residence Life at Southeast, discussed the internship last winter and it seemed Mwangi’s interest in gaining human resource management experience was a perfect fit for the City of Joplin’s need for growth in that area, Kelly said.

“Thank you for the amazing reception here in Joplin,” Mwangi said, adding he is appreciative of Kelly reading his LinkedIn profile and realizing his goal to land a summer internship.

He says Kelly helped him settle into Joplin “which really helped me to be effective while working on projects.

“Brian has been amazing,” Mwangi said. Thanks to him, “my future employer will have a hard time beating” the welcome he’s received in Joplin.

Mwangi’s summer in Joplin became a reality when Southeast Regent Don LaFerla of Carthage, Missouri, assisted the Kenyan student in finding housing at Missouri Southern State University.

To LaFerla, Mwangi says, “Thank you for believing in this random kid from Kenya and actually following through to make sure I landed an internship.”

Mwangi has helped develop the city’s new pay plan and Citizens Academy. For the pay plan, Mwangi helped research market rates for city positions, and created criteria for advancement through the pay plan. Citizens Academy is a nine-week program for business owners, employees and residents of the City of Joplin to educate participants about city government and services available.

Nelson and Don LaFerla

Southeast Regent Don LaFerla and Nelson Mwangi

“Nelson developed an outline and schedule for the program. He then contacted department heads and helped develop a schedule for each day,” Kelly said. “This is a program the City of Joplin is very excited about.”

Kelly says Mwangi is working on projects not normally assigned to interns.

“Nelson has greatly impressed Joplin staff and all the people he has met. In addition to these projects, Nelson has had the opportunity to network with people throughout Joplin. This includes the Joplin City Council, CEOs of Joplin businesses and young professionals,” Kelly said.

Mwangi said, “I am humbled and honored to have been offered this internship — very blessed and very fortunate.”

In 2011, Mwangi left Kenya to attend school in the United States. He originally planned to go to Atlanta, Georgia, but application deadlines were fast approaching with few schools still having availability. Southeast’s application was still open at the time, so he planned to attend for a semester and then transfer. Instead, he has remained at Southeast for four years, where he says he has met great people and has had a lot of opportunities to get involved . The network he created has helped him thrive.

As a business management major, Mwangi has focused on both human resource management and economics. He says he would love to work in talent acquisition and recruiting. He says he wants to help people with potential learn how to use it and help provide educational opportunities to those with limited resources.

“In the U.S.A., I would like to help identify overlooked talent and those hardworking but do not know what to do to be successful. As far as Kenya is concerned, I would want to identify smart kids who do not have the privilege of education,” Mwangi said. “I believe education is the key to success.”

Mwangi says he knows he would have to make a lot of money in order to set up a scholarship or program, but he wants to help others. He says he gets self-satisfaction from helping others and seeing them succeed.

“I believe if I do my part, the rest will take care of itself,” Mwangi said.

Mwangi serves as a Presidential Ambassador, vice president of the Rugby Club and a student for the Network of International Business Schools. He previously served as a first year senator, Funding Board member and Rules Chair committee member for Student Government, vice president of the International Student Association, member of Future Business Leaders of America- Phi Beta Lambda. He also took part in the President’s Leadership Academy and Center for Strategic and International Studies class. Mwangi also has been active in Collegiate DECA and works as a resident assistant for Residence Life and as a supervisor at the Student Recreation Center.