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Sunday, November 18, 2018

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From left to right: Payton Hansen (Chris's daughter), Peninah Musanka and Chris Hansen From left to right: Payton Hansen (Chris's daughter), Peninah Musanka and Chris Hansen

International Student Receives Unique Opportunity at SDSU

A gift from an alumnus supports one young woman’s educational journey at SDSU.
By Krista Nielsen

Thousands of international students have found a home at San Diego State University, but Peninah Musanka’s story is unique. The incoming freshman from the remote, rural community of Naikarra, Kenya, is the first international student at SDSU whose education is supported entirely by an alumnus.

Chris Hansen (’91) and his family travelled to Naikarra several years ago and visited the nearby high school, one of the Kisaruni Group of Schools established by WE Charity. These schools enable young women in Kenya to continue their education past the eighth grade.

“After meeting all of the incredibly impressive, hard-working and dedicated girls, I just couldn’t help but wonder what the best of them could become if given the opportunity to go to an amazing college like SDSU,” Hansen said. 

He approached SDSU about sponsoring a student from the Kisaruni schools, and SDSU staff members selected Musanka on the basis of her superior language skills and scholastic ability. She is the first graduate from the Kisaruni schools to be accepted into a university program outside Kenya.

A different journey

Noah Hansen, director of SDSU’s International Student Center (no relation to Chris), worked with Sandra Temores-Valdez, senior director of Enrollment Services, to support Musanka’s smooth transition to the United States and to life as a university student.

“We have international students from 90 countries representing six continents, and every one of them adjusts to SDSU differently,” Noah Hansen said. “Though Peninah’s journey is different from most international students, I have no doubt she’ll thrive at SDSU. Chris’ support of her education is life-changing.”

In September, Chris Hansen and Musanka met for the first time on campus. The soft-spoken student talked about her drought-stricken village, her journey to the United States and her transition to life on a large campus. 

She intends to attend a few football games and eat her fill of pizza and hamburgers while earning a degree from SDSU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Ultimately, Musanka’s goal is to make her village proud and set an example for her three younger sisters and brother in Naikarra.

“When you open the door just a crack for someone with her background, that’s all it takes,” Chris Hansen said. “I am just incredibly excited to see what she becomes in life.”