From Uganda to Hesston: Dan Muhwezi’s journey into the sociology classroom

By Risa Fukaya – Horizon News & Features Editor

A colorful card from a former student is one of Dan Muhwezi’s cherished items. It hangs on his bulletin board and reads, “I will bless you… and you will be a blessing to others.”

As a teacher who values all encounters with students, these words stay with him.

A card from a former student gets prime placement on Dan Muhwezi’s bulletin board. Photo by Risa Fukaya

Muhwezi was born in Uganda, Africa. He studied political science and got his first degree at Makarere University in Uganda for three years. After that, he studied at Cambridge in United Kingdom. He came to the United States because his wife got a scholarship at the University of Iowa. Although he got a scholarship at a university in Australia, he did not take it so that he could live with his wife.

Encounters with sociology

Sociology was not Muhwezi ‘s original plan, but it was the only option to continue studying with a scholarship. Although he had a hard time studying sociology, he read a lot of books related to the field, and he eventually found it interesting.

He has five children, and says sociology has affected the way he raised them.

Once, Muhwezi invited his friends, including women, to visit the church he had once attended alone. At that time, the person who managed visitors was not willing to let them into the church: They only wanted to admit men. That was the last time he visited the church. He always made it sure that he taught his children gender equality, that girls and boys have same opportunities their whole lives. He says he teaches what he believes.

The beginning of life at Hesston College

After Muhwezi retired from his former school, he looked forward to a life with rest and no busy work for awhile. When his wife, a writer, visited Hesston College to promote her book as a textbook he came along to drive her. But when he met former president Dr. Howard Keim, his plans changed.

“What do you do?” the president asked.

“I am a professor of sociology and psychology, and I’ve just retired about  one month ago,” Muhwezi answered.

“Do you want to teach at Hesston College?” the President asked.

Dan Muhwezi in his Kropf Center office. Photo by Risa Fukaya

Being an international teacher

It may seem difficult to be a professor in a country you’re unfamiliar with, but there is strong advantage here at Hesston College, where we have a large population of international students who can relate to Muhwezi.

He says his background gives him some unique advantages, too. Because his first language is not English, he can understand many kinds of intonation and accents from all over the world. That helps him to teach international students more effectively.

“I am always glad to meet students,” he said.

Muhwezi says he cherishes all encounters with his students and starts all his class periods with a simple question: “How are you doing this morning?”

Muhwezi believes that he should not discourage students from having their own unique ideas. They are also teachers, he says. These students provide his classes with ideas new to him, and he tries to interact with students as much as he can.

“The most important thing teacher do is empower students,” he said.

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