When she started at the University of Toronto in the 1980s, Nakanyike B. Musisi was the first African woman to be a PhD candidate in the history department.
Today, the associate professor of African history serves as a mentor to other students from the continent, many of them women who have gone on to competitive graduate programs around the world.
Her office in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s history department, with a comfy futon and an inviting oak table with coffee stains, has become a familiar basecamp for international students from Africa. People stop by when they’re feeling a little homesick, need encouragement or just seeking academic advice.
Musisi has kept her connection to Africa. She’s taken undergraduate students to Uganda and Kenya for summer abroad and course-based trips. Twice a year, she returns to Uganda – her husband, also a U of T alum, is a psychiatrist there. She also took a 10-year leave to go back home and help reinvigorate her alma mater, Makerere University in Kampala, raising $19.5 million from international foundations for community-based research and becoming the university’s first African woman to lead an institute.
“I decided to go back to Uganda because I was feeling bad,” she recalled. “I felt like my country had invested in me. Then I graduated, and I didn’t do any service. So I decided to take a leave and go back to my country.”
For her contributions to Africa and the community here, Musisi is one of two U of T faculty members and several alumni who were honoured Friday by the African Alumni Association.
Honouring U of T's African scholars and alumni