'Because of Stanford I have been able to pull my very large extended family out of poverty, support development projects in my village community and change the lives of young people (especially girls) wherever I’ve worked.'
I learned about the Stanford International Development Education Center (SIDEC) from a colleague, Dr. Henri Nicolas Nson, himself a GSE graduate. It was Nson who first encouraged me to apply to Stanford even though Cameroonian society, at the time, considered my masters in Sociology of Education from the University of London Institute of Education enough education for a woman.
While teaching at the École Normale Supérieure, I observed the circumstances of my 30 students. Twenty-five of them were young men ages 20–25, whereas all five female students were age 30 and above. I wondered, ‘Why were all my female students older and married with children while their male counterparts were younger and unmarried?’
I realized that there was a bigger phenomenon that needed further study. Thus was born my passion for the subject that eventually shaped my research at Stanford.
I could afford a single application fee, so I only applied to Stanford. Financial responsibility for my siblings consumed the remainder of my meager salary. When I asked a U.S. Embassy clerk for assistance with a U.S.-dollar check to include in the application package, he mocked me: “You should try applying to other colleges. Stanford University is too competitive and you have no chance of getting in.”
But then, my application fell into the hands of Professor Hans Weiler and the GSE selection committee. Hans’ determination to get me into Stanford totally shocked me. He must have pulled every string there was, because when I finally arrived from Cameroon in September of 1989, I was the only female student from Africa in the entire School of Education that year and every year until I graduated in 1994.
At Stanford, I met an incredibly supportive faculty and student community. Hans Weiler, Myra Strober, Chiqui Ramirez, Martin Carnoy, David Abernathy, Ray McDermott and the late Elizabeth Cohen impacted my life beyond my wildest dreams. Stanford changed my life and my story. Because of Stanford I have been able to pull my very large extended family out of poverty, support development projects in my village community and change the lives of young people (especially girls) wherever I’ve worked.
Furthermore, through my work at the World Bank and the African Development Bank, I have impacted the development agenda in countries such as Sierra Leone, Ghana, Gambia and Liberia. Without Stanford, my life would never have taken this improbable journey and I cannot thank Hans Weiler enough for believing in me.
Thank you, Professor Hans Weiler!
Margaret Kilo earned her PhD in International Development Education at Stanford in 1994. She has served with the African Development Bank for many years, currently as resident representative in Liberia.