A champion for sportsmanship and goodwill, Susie Gurzenda '14, spreads her uplifting attitude far beyond the campus playing fields. On three separate occasions, Gurzenda, a member of both the Ladies field hockey and lacrosse teams, made trips to eastern Africa in efforts to share knowledge with, as well as care for and learn from, the underprivileged.
In her most recent trip during the fall semester of her junior year, Gurzenda landed in Nairobi, Kenya, where she took one month of intensive Swahili, followed by classes in international development, public health, and more Swahili. The final six weeks of her trip were dedicated to a research project that took her to the coastal village of Mwachinga, near Mombasa. There she studied the relationship between children’s knowledge of Schistosomiasis, a waterborne disease, and their decisions to seek or ignore treatment.
Upon her return to Gambier, Gurzenda, originally from Somerset, Pennsylvania, helped guide the Ladies lacrosse team to the 2013 North Coast Athletic Conference title, the first conference title in program history. The Ladies rang up a 13-3 record and participated in the NCAA DIII Tournament. At season’s end, Gurzenda was one of two Kenyon players named to the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association's (IWLCA) Academic Honor Roll.
Her return to campus triggered the inception of a Swahili study table. Additionally, Gurzenda became an upperclass counselor and continued her work with Christian Outreach and Social Justice, as well as with Spiritual and Religious Life.
“It’s just great to be at a place like Kenyon where there are so many opportunities,” Gurzenda said. “I have amazing teammates, coaches, and professors. There is so much curiosity in the classroom and so much drive on the field…all of that just excites me.”
Prior to the Kenya trip, Gurzenda twice traveled to Tanzania to teach school children near the city of Arusha. Her first time there she spent three months teaching English and physics at a secondary school. The second time around, she taught HIV/AIDS awareness and nutrition education. The people, the area, and especially the Swahili language, captured Gurzenda’s interest and had a major influence on her decision to become an international studies and economics double major.
For now, Gurzenda is geared up for field hockey, keeping the Kenyon women on a winning path. Graduate school is likely in her future and return to Africa is almost a certainty.