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VIProfile: Susan Mkanta

Story by Emily Robertson | Photography by Chad White

Elinami Suzana Mkanta, or Susan to most who know her, came to the United States in 2001 to be with her husband, William, as he attended school. She thought their family would be in the country for a few years and then return to their native country, Tanzania. But now, more than 20 years later, Mkanta has worked hard on her own education, and now helps families from all over the world as they relocate and settle in their new home here in Bowling Green.

Mkanta began her education journey in America when she earned an Associate degree of Science in Office Administration while living in Florida. In 2007, her family relocated to Bowling Green when her husband joined WKU as a professor. “A year later, I began working with the International Center of Kentucky,” Mkanta says. “At the time, the agency was working to resettle Swahili-speaking populations in the Bowling Green area and I was the first African case manager. I started providing case management services for the first African families resettled from Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Mkanta says that working with the International Center at that time was a divine appointment and perfect fit. New Bowling Green residents who were immigrating from African countries could immediately connect with someone who knew their language and culture, and could help with their resettlement needs. As she was promoted to program manager at the center, she decided to pursue further education and received both her bachelor’s degree and a Master of Social Work from WKU, which has only furthered her passion for her work.

“Driven with a heart of service, receiving the position at the center was so ideal to me because it positioned me to do what I like most: serving others,” Mkanta says. “When I realized I could pursue higher education to become a professional in my industry and continue to do what I love in a professional manner, it was perfect. Most of what I do every day in working with individuals and families makes more sense now as I examine different situations based on the skills I have learned in social work.”

While Mkanta and her husband have been working hard to grow their careers and help those around them, they’ve also watched their children grow and thrive in the United States. When the couple first came to the country, they were a family of four, with two children, ages nine and six. Now, 22 years later, both of their children are married and they have one grandchild and Mkanta is grateful that her children have flourished here and been successful in their own pursuits.

“My greatest accomplishment is my family,” Mkanta says. “We stayed in the United States because we wanted our children to get the best education there is. I am proud that our son has completed a master’s degree in Public Administration and our daughter has one semester left to complete her master’s program in social work. Along the way, I have been able to show and teach my children about the importance of education, which came from me watching my father, Cuthbert L. Tarimu, complete his Master’s Degree in Chemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana in 1957. I truly thank my God for being so faithful to me and my family throughout our lives.”

Mkanta says that just like she wanted to guide her own children, guiding refugee and immigrant youth to have help and support to become successful adults here in America is a huge passion for her. William, founded the organization Community Agenda for Regained Empowerment (CAREUSTZ) to focus on inspiring and empowering others to become the best possible versions of themselves.

Going forward, Mkanta hopes she, along with her family, continues to find the best ways to serve others, through the International Center, their nonprofit organization, CAREUSTZ and partnering with other organizations. The privilege to help others is something that she does not take lightly. “My life motto is to serve, support and empower others whenever the opportunity comes,” Mkanta says. “Those who are supported see it as an opportunity in their favor, but it is important to know that to be able to help is an opportunity that not everyone has, so it must be honored and respected. Our family motto is to maintain values and traditions, and that includes treating everyone with respect and kindness, while enforcing our family and spiritual values and beliefs.”

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