Alumna honors UMKC mentor by helping African girls

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Alumna honors UMKC mentor by helping African girls

Alumna honors UMKC mentor by helping African girls


When Wumi Alabi graduated in 2010 with her doctoral degree from UMKC, she wasted no time in returning to her native Nigeria to resume work as the head of a Space Education Outreach Program there. She had much she wanted to accomplish, and she was eager to get to work.

Soon, though, she recognized a need in Africa: attracting and retaining more women to physical science fields. So Alabi again tackled the challenge. She created a non-profit organization to address just that need. And she named it after her friend and mentor from her days at UMKC: Linda Hood Talbott  (Ph.D. ’73).
The Talbott Initiative for Girls in Science is a coaching program that provides classes in math and physics for Nigerian girls enrolled in public schools. The girls receive mentoring, help in developing problem-solving skills and exposure to career opportunities in the physical sciences. Classes are offered at no cost to students, enabling those who don’t have the resources to pay for lessons beyond what is offered in public schools to get supplemental support and training.

This summer, during a visit to Kansas City, Alabi was the guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by Talbott, chairman of the Center for Philanthropic Leadership and president of Talbott & Associates. In 2008, Alabi received the Linda Hood Talbott Award given by the UMKC Women’s Council Graduate Assistance Fund. The award was established by Talbott, a civic and philanthropic leader in Kansas City and past president of the UMKC Women's Council. The luncheon with the chancellor (pictured with Alabi above), campus leadership and Women's Council volunteer leaders (pictured at right) provided Alabi an opportunity to brief them on the initiative.

"UMKC means a lot to me," Alabi said. "I was privileged to receive a fellowship and awards to support my research."

Alabi started her career in the late 1980s as a high school physics and math teacher and department head in Minna, Nigeria. Her success with students led to a job promoting science education among Nigerian students, while at the same time she earned a master’s degree in physics. Her success as a role model prompted her supervisors to make arrangements for her to continue her graduate studies at UMKC.

As a student at UMKC, Alabi’s high standards and excellent grades resulted in her receiving several awards and scholarships, including the Talbott Award. She was given the Graduate Assistant Superior Teaching Award, the Dissertation Research Fellowship and the William and Catherine Repp Memorial Scholarship.
Talbott said Alabi's initiative will play an important role in Nigeria's future.

"This is about the business of transforming education for girls in Nigeria and building technical capacity in Nigeria," Talbott said. "I was floored when I learned she'd named it for me."

During the luncheon with UMKC friends and leaders, Alabi presents Chancellor Leo Morton with a piece of Nigerian art.