Thursday March 15, 2012

Becoming a Change Agent

A former political activist who sought asylum in the U.S. after fleeing his native Kenya is one of the first students to receive the School of Law's M.S.L. degree in intellectual property.

A former political activist who sought asylum in the United States after fleeing his native Kenya is one of the first students to receive the School of Law’s master in the study of laws (M.S.L.) degree in intellectual property.  

Peter Mwangi received his M.S.L. degree earlier this year and is now pursuing a J.D. at a law school out west. His goal, he said, is to “study constitutional law and other governance-related law courses, so that when I combine them with what I have studied in the M.S.L. program, I will be a truly informed change agent when I go back to Kenya.”  

Mwangi was a political activist who advocated for good governance and democracy in Kenya at a time of upheaval when the country’s rulers had consolidated power. “Most people were not happy about it,” he said, “and they started criticizing the government. But the government was not happy with what we were doing.”   

In 2005, things grew hostile for Mwangi and his colleagues. Some were beaten and others were killed. So he fled, first traveling to Uganda and Tanzania before receiving political asylum in the United States.  

Before enrolling in the University of Dayton in 2010, Mwangi lived in Salt Lake City, where he worked in the patient transportation department at the University of Utah hospital.  

“As a foreign student and a political asylee,” Mwangi said, “the University of Dayton School of Law was like my home, while the city of Dayton was like my country.”  

Mwangi enrolled in the M.S.L. program to learn more about intellectual property and give him a firm foundation in the study of law. The concept of intellectual property in Kenya, he said, is “basically nonexistent.”  

“In Kenya, there are no laws on patents, copyrights, trademarks and other areas of intellectual property,” he said. “My aim in applying for the M.S.L. program was to understand how intellectual property law works here in the United States, and then borrow what can be applied in Kenya when I go back there.”  

However, Mwangi didn’t just focus on intellectual property while at UDSL. Seeking to broaden his understanding of the law, he also studied on his own other legal areas like antitrust and constitutional law.  

Kenya is the process of implementing its new constitution, which was approved in August 2011. “There’s a lot to be done,” Mwangi said. “Though the constitution is written on paper, there is no constitutional culture in the country.”  

“Kenya will really need my ideas,” he said.  

The M.S.L. degree is one of two graduate degrees offered by the law school in intellectual property. The M.S.L. is designed for U.S. and international students who do not have law degree. Mwangi and David Sabol are the first students to receive the degree; both graduated in January.  

The School of Law’s other graduate degree, a master of laws (LL.M.), is open to students who have a law degree. 

For more information on the School of Law’s graduate degree programs, contact Susan Wawrose, director of law graduate programs, at 937-229-2235 or by email.