Dr. Paulvince Otieno Obuon ’08, ’11E, ’19DE to receive Young Alumni Award
Dr. Paulvince Otieno Obuon ’08, ’11E, ’19DE stepped foot in Nebraska for the first time in 2006. His initial reaction was not uncommon for those who have never visited the Cornhusker State.
“Small,” he says, with a laugh. “My first interactions with people were very positive, though. I knew it would be a good experience.”
A good experience is an understatement for Paulvince, who has called Crete his home for the last 13 years.
Born and raised in Kenya, Paulvince came to the United States to attend college in 2003. He began his undergraduate experience at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia where he studied business and ran track on the Keydets track and field team.
Looking to transfer to another school, Paulvince was connected to Doane through the friend of one of his coaches whose son went to Doane.
“I looked into schools in the Midwest and Doane was strongly recommended,” he says. “I never took a visit. I didn’t know anything about Nebraska.”
That didn’t stop Paulvince from committing to Doane, however, as a member of the track and field team. While at Doane, he excelled academically and athletically.
Paulvince was a four-time NAIA All-American and two-time National Champion (60m Indoor and 4x100m Outdoor) on the Tigers track and field team. He also was involved with Doane Student Media while he was an undergraduate student, hosting a radio show on KDNE and sold advertisements for the student newspaper, The Doane Owl.
Paulvince earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2008 and worked at Kenexa Technology before electing to return to Doane to pursue a Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction.
“Doane has been great to me,” he says. “The professors at all levels are great. They are accessible, very responsive, and truly care about you. What stands out to me the most about Doane is the support system within the university and the help that everyone is so willing to provide.”
Paulvince’s passion for education led him to pursue another degree from Doane, this time, a Doctorate of Education. He graduated in May and hopes to use the knowledge he’s gained throughout his graduate programs to apply towards the nonprofit organization he founded, Practical Foundation, Inc.
Practical Foundation aims to provide access to education in rural Kenya through a sustainable, financially self-sufficient school model. In Kenya, tuition is charged for students grades K-12 and many families living in rural Kenya are unable to afford to pay those fees. Oftentimes students drop out after 8th grade because high school is very expensive for an average rural Kenyan family that lives on $1 or less per day.
“My hope is to create a model that allows kids who can’t afford to pay to go to school the opportunity to receive an education,” Paulvince says. “The concept of Practical Foundation is that these schools will run on campus commercially successful micro-enterprises, similar to work study positions in college. The money earned from these commercial endeavors will be used to cover school operating costs including teacher’s salaries, room and board, school uniforms, etc.”
Paulvince adds that students will work no more than 15 hours a week, still giving them plenty of time to focus on their school work. Essentially, it’s exchanging roughly 10 hours of labor a week for an education, he says. The cost of high school is roughly $500 per year in Kenya and there is a lack of schools and resources to adequately equip students.
“My high school classroom had 56 kids with one teacher,” Paulvince says. “For an average family living in rural Kenya, the unemployment rate is 40% and there isn’t a lot of money to go around. After 8th grade, a lot of kids don’t go to school. They have the potential to do well, but because of a lack of money, they aren’t able to.”
Paulvince has visited Kenya several times since he founded Practical Foundation, Inc. and has intentions of moving back full-time in the relatively near future. Since founding the nonprofit, he has made grassroots connections in Kenya to inform others about the project and has efforted to raise funds for support.
Currently in a full-time role, Paulvince is a teacher and coach at Crete Intermediate School. He teaches English Language Learning courses and coaches the Cardinals cross country and track and field teams. He is fluent in three languages (English, Swahilli, Luo) and still finds himself in the library often, always wanting to learn more.
For his outstanding work inside and outside of the classroom, Dr. Paulvince Otieno Obuon is this year’s recipient of the Young Alumni Award. Paulvince’s selflessness is seen at every turn he takes and has played a large role in shaping the man he is today.
“Doane taught me to serve others before self and to be the best at what you do, no matter what it is,” he says. “Practical Foundation is my way of giving back, ‘teaching a man to fish,’ and hopefully improving the lives of many students and families in Kenya.
“It is a great honor to receive the Young Alumni Award. I’m grateful for this recognition.”