Jordan Weaver Explores Psychology and Rugby in Kenya

LVC alumna Jordan Weaver poses in her rugby uniform in Kenya

Jordan Weaver ’13 utilizes the skills she learned at Lebanon Valley College to pursue a successful future in Nairobi, Kenya, through a mixture of academic, athletic, and spiritual life endeavors. The psychology major had made two previous trips to Kenya before deciding to return for graduate studies in 2013—once in 2009 with Harvest Blessings Centre Children’s Home and once for a self-organized study abroad trip in Spring 2012. 

While working toward the completion of her master’s in counseling psychology at the United States International University-Africa (USIU-A), Weaver also serves as the team manager for the men’s rugby team; captain of the women’s rugby team, which she started; and head of department for the teens’ church at Christ Is The Answer ministries (CITAM).

“As a LVC student, I was able to balance part-time work, class, rugby, FOR-U ministries, church work, and being a resident assistant,” outlines Weaver. “Learning how to manage various activities helped me develop leadership skills, determination, and focus. All of these qualities contribute to my success now.”

Weaver’s academic achievements at USIU-A led Dr. Carol J. Watson, assistant professor of psychology, to appoint Weaver to the position of graduate assistant. This gave Weaver the opportunity to help implement USIU-A’s standard operating procedures for its Institutional Review Board (IRB), which went into effect during the 2015-2016 academic year. 

“Working with experienced faculty and staff was a positive experience and enabled me to understand how policy within such institutions is developed and implemented,” reflects Weaver.

As a practicum student in the Counseling Center at USIU-A, Weaver also works closely with the sports teams on campus on the importance of psychological experiences on and off the field. This has inspired Weaver to focus on sports psychology and provides her with practical experience for her thesis research on the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation levels among the athletes and coaches at the university. 

Psychology is not always well received outside the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, but this is something Weaver endeavors to change. Cultural concepts, such as demon possession, advocated by unofficial counseling centers and village elders, often conflict with modern day psychology.

Weaver feels that there are a number of opportunities to pioneer in the field as a practician, particularly with the Kenyan parliament’s new regulatory advocacy. She is involved in USIU-A’s psych-education programs which seek to educate local communities on basic soft skills. These programs head campaigns for events like Mental Health Week and participate in peer counselor training.

“As I continue my education and get involved with more opportunities I aim to stay within the sports arena connecting initiatives of community service to psych-education opportunities as well as improving the conditions of university sports programs,” affirms Weaver.

Sports psychology is an important cause for Weaver, an avid rugby player and advocate. Weaver began USIU-A’s first women’s rugby program in October 2014 and served as acting captain until 2015. This is the first women’s team at the college level. 

Weaver remembers the nontraditional beginnings of her Kenyan rugby experience: “When I came to USIU-A in 2012 I trained with the men’s rugby teams as there was no women’s team. When I returned in 2013 I simply did the same. I became team manager and trained like one of the guys.”

This opened the discussion on a women’s team, and after the interest in a touch rugby tournament for Breast Cancer Awareness in 2014, a team began. Now Weaver also works with the Kenya Rugby Union in planning the women’s league, establishing a partnership with KCB Women’s Rugby Club and USIU-A, and organizing a series of training clinics with local clubs through USIU-A.

Due to her talent on the pitch Weaver was given the opportunity to play for the 2015 Kenya National Women’s Rugby Team, the Lionesses. The team won the Elgon Cup, an annual competition between Kenya and Uganda. Out of the impressive list of experiences under her belt, Weaver considers this one of her favorites.

“It was a very surreal and eye-opening experience,” recounts Weaver. “It has also allowed so many other opportunities to come across my desk.”

Guiding Weaver throughout her adventures is her religious faith, and she cites the lessons she learned during her rugby training as instrumental in her walk with Christ (and vice versa). Her faith led her to work with the teens’ church at CITAM where she serves approximately 200 teens in 9th-12th grades. In this capacity, she organizes a variety of team-building trips, such as camps and concerts, and organizes the speakers that come and speak to the teens. Weaver also serves as a mentor to a smaller group of young ladies, and through a church in Pennsylvania, sponsors a young man’s high school education.

“What I enjoy most is pushing myself to new levels, taking chances, and seeing where those things will lead me—I think that’s why I can say I have a uniquely decorated résumé,” surmises Weaver. “For me it’s all about taking risks that others don’t take. Life is too short to live in a comfort zone for too long.”