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A Nobel Pursuit

When 11 Hamilton students traveled to Kenya for two weeks last spring as part of a government course, little did they know they'd be spending time with a future Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The students who participated in the interdisciplinary field school met with Kenyan environmental activist and Green Belt founder Wangari Maathai, who was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 8. The trip was offered in conjunction with the government seminar class, Democratization and Kenya, led by Professor of Government Steve Orvis.

In addition to meeting with Maathai at her home in Nairobi, the students helped Green Belt workers plant trees and build chairs at a local school. Earlier in the week, they delivered food and medical supplies to AIDS patients.

The trip was designed to provide the class with hands-on learning experiences that would supplement their semester-long discussion, "What difference does democracy make?" In addition to the service opportunities, students lived with host families and met with leading Kenyan politicians, academics and civic activists.

Maathai, the deputy environment minister, is the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She was cited for her work as leader of the Green Belt Movement that has planted more than 30 million trees across Africa.

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