Post-Doctoral Fellow, Entomology
Office of International Programs/University Outreach
Esther’s International Involvement:
I have a passion for International work. I am heavily engaged in International work both in my native country—Kenya and other countries in our global world. On a beautiful summer day of August, 6, 2011, I attained what at times seemed to be an elusive dream. On that day, I received my doctorate degree in Entomology and became the first woman in my community to obtain a PhD degree. As I walked to get my degree, I began to cry. My thoughts meandered back to my community in Kenya. I thought of the many children in my community who had the potential to be a scientist like me but lacked the opportunity.
It is during that day, I told myself that I would do whatever it would take to give the children in my community, the children from other poor communities, the children in Africa the opportunities so that they can break the poverty barrier, get an education and go out to attain whatever it is that they want to become. Since then, I have dedicated all my passion, efforts, heart, and resources to bring sustainable change to communities beginning with education.
In early, 2012, my parents and I established the Dr. Ndumi Faulu Academy. As a family, we believe that education is the gateway to ending poverty. Those who have it have a sure hope of a better future. The school opened doors to 14 children. They studied in a mud class but we were happy to know that we had started giving back. Across five years, we have built eight more classrooms, enrolled over 100 students, built a library and are building a science lab to inspire a generation of scientists. Our ultimate goal is to build Africa’s future Harvard and empower as many students so that they too can reach for the stars, break the ceiling and become whatever their hearts desire.
Apart from having a school, I am a mentor and continue to be a mentor to students from all around our world through several initiatives including Clinton Global University Initiative. I am also a Food Security Fellow with the Aspen Institute.
Where are you from and what brought you to Auburn University?
I was born in a small rural farming community in the Kenyan Coast. I came to Auburn University in 2008 to pursue my doctoral degree in Entomology. On a beautiful summer day of 2011, I achieved my goal and attained my PhD degree in Entomology.
What are the challenges for women in your field and what have you done to overcome those challenges?
As female scientists, we still lack seasoned and reliable mentors to guide us through this journey. At the same time, funding is a great challenge.
To address the challenge of funding, I am working on broadening my networks so that I can be able to form meaningful partnerships and collaborations in my field of research hoping that these collaborations could translate into drafting joint proposals that can result to funding the research I am engaged in.
To overcome the challenge of lack of mentors, I continue reaching out to potential scientists and other women that I consider as role models to me so that they can serve as my mentors. I have also in turn given my time to mentor other younger students. There is something about mentoring our younger generations. As a mentor, I strive to be a role model and continue to encourage my mentees to have higher aspirations in life and to make meaningful and lasting positive impacts in their careers and societies.
Who (or what) are your role models and influences?
I have many role models and positive influencers. Beginning with my Professors here at Auburn as well as many other people across the many organizations I have been privileged to work with. They all have been instrumental in my career. They have truly had a positive impact in my life and for that I am forever grateful. Above all, my parents –Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Ngumbi and my family members spread across the world have been everything to me.
What advice do you have for young women?
Keep pushing. Keep working hard. Believe in yourself and your dreams. Surround yourself with positive role models who want to help you achieve your dreams. Broaden your networks. Stay plugged in to your professional networks. Succeed in your career and make positive contributions to our society. Above all, have fun as you do what you love!
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