Random Sample

  • Native of: Gwasi, Nyanza, Kenya

  • Occupation: Associate professor of management in Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business in Tempe. He specializes in leadership development. He's also a senior research scientist at the Gallup Organization.

  • Member since: 2006

  • Chance of a lifetime: Walumbwa grew up in the poverty-stricken village of Gwasi in western Kenya, where he had to compete for the chance to attend college. In 1989, 200,000 of the country's brightest students took a national test to vie for 10,000 all-expenses-paid college slots each year. He was smart—and fortunate—enough to win one of them. "No one knows where those other 190,000 go to," says Walumbwa. "Their lives may be ruined by not passing one test."

  • First job: After college at Kenya's Egerton University, Walumbwa landed a position as the personal assistant to the vice chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and traveled throughout Kenya for business meetings. The work prompted him to immigrate to the United States to pursue an MBA, followed by a PhD in industrial/organizational psychology, both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Greatest immigration challenge: Coping with the pressure he felt from friends and family back home to make it in America. "I had to put all the effort I had in life to make sure I was a success," in school, says Walumbwa. "All eyes were on me, and I felt I didn't have any room for mistakes."

  • Family life: His wife, Vivian, is also from Kenya, and son John Henry, 9, is in fourth grade. Experienced international travelers, the three kept it domestic last summer and went to Disneyland to meet Mickey.

  • Passion project: Through Gallup, Walumbwa recently conducted a poll asking Kenyans to identify their biggest needs and concerns. Finding jobs and avoiding poverty topped the list. In September, he traveled to Kenya to present the findings to the country's leaders, its citizens and the U.S. ambassador. The officials showed great interest in the data and he came away with high hopes that the findings might affect real change in the country. "I am trying to help the voices in that area of the world be heard," he says. "Africa is not just a land of desperation. There's huge promise there, and the more we can do to help them compete with the rest of the world, the better the world will be."

  • Hobbies: Soccer, reading Kenyan newspapers and listening to local African musicians. "I must brag that I am also a very good dancer," Walumbwa says.

  • Why he loves Phoenix: "There's not much of a difference in temperature from Kenya," he says. "It's like I'm home."

—J. Chamberlin


Each month, "Random Sample" profiles a randomly selected APA member. You might be next.