Katie Bunten-Wren Studies Adolescent Self-Esteem in Kenya,
Presents Findings at Wellesley College’s Tanner Conference

October 31, 2008

Molly Tarantino, Public Affairs

WELLESLEY, Mass. — Wellesley College senior Katie Bunten-Wren battled scorpions, poisonous snakes and the relentless heat of the semi-arid African climate at the north-Kenyan refugee camp of Kakuma — but during her time there, these things were the least of her worries.

Katie Bunten-Wren and her schoolchildren

Working with an agency called Windle Trust, Bunten-Wren spent a semester at Kakuma studying the self-esteem and self-perceptions of adolescent girls by examining their drawings. She witnessed first-hand the obstacles faced by young women growing up in the camp, including sub-standard living conditions and the fear of being sold into an arranged marriage before finishing school. According to Bunten-Wren, seeing these hardships of poverty was both “eye-opening and horrifying.”

But despite such disheartening realities, Bunten-Wren was encouraged by the girls she worked with at the Angelina Jolie Girls’ Boarding School outside Kakuma. “The young women at this school had dreams of becoming doctors and politicians that would bring peace to their home country,” she said.

Bunten-Wren is the daughter of Gene Bunten of Eliot, Maine, and Kathy Wren of Lee, N.H. She discussed her research in the presentation, “Drawings of Dreams: The Power of Women’s Education in Kakuma, Kenya,” at the annual Tanner Conference on the Wellesley College campus, a day-long event held Oct. 28.

Sign in Kenya

Upon returning from Kenya, Bunten-Wren found she had a new perspective on her studies at Wellesley. She switched from a psychology major with plans to attend medical school to a peace and justice studies major with a focus on development in Africa. “My time in Kakuma taught me a lot and changed my life,” she said.

The Tanner Conference brings together students, faculty, staff and alumnae as they share their off-campus studies. With projects ranging from “A Mosaic of Morocco: Life as a Nomad” to “Victim or Victimizer? The 2008 London Extradition Case of 1994 Rwandan Genocide,” Wellesley travelers return to discuss their experiences with the community.

This year’s conference represents the work of nearly 300 students, faculty, alumnae and staff. The annual event was established in 2001 through the generosity of Wellesley trustee Estelle “Nicki” Newman Tanner ‘57. For more information, visit http://new.wellesley.edu/CWS/Tanner/.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For more information, go to www.wellesley.edu.