Paul Robinson, Ph.D.

Professor of History Emeritus, Director of Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR)
On Faculty since 1999

Office: Schell Hall Lower Level
Phone: (630)752-5199


Ph.D., History (Africa), Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 1985

Dissertation: Gabra Nomadic Pastoralism in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Northern Kenya: Strategies for Survival in A Marginal Environment

M.A., History (Africa), Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 1977

B.A., History, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, 1974

About Paul Robinson

Dr. Robinson’s formative years were spent in the Belgian Congo—at a time when most of Africa was the possession of one or another of Europe’s nations. For more than four decades, his life experiences were largely centered in Africa where he lived, worked, and together with his wife, Margie, raised three children. More recently, since joining Wheaton’s faculty, this context has been enlarged to include much of what is being called “The Global South.”

His journey in scholarship really began at Northwestern University, where he studied history and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to examine the vulnerability of African communities to protracted drought in the 1970s. His PhD research took place in the deserts of the Kenya-Ethiopian frontier, where he spent many hours walking desert paths and sitting under trees in conversation with Gabra sages, learning how they survived and flourished in one of Africa's harshest environments. This experience anchored his engagement with issues of cultural change and ‘development,’ as well as his commitment to learning from other cultures. For three decades, he has shared that learning with college students through cross-cultural learning and service educational programs.

Dr. Robinson’s scholarship and teaching have always been directly linked to praxis. He continues to work closely with international organizations, assisting with assessment of development initiatives. He worked for two years with MAP International and church leaders in Kenya, helping to facilitate an integrative response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He is passionate about emerging relational and partnership paradigms between North and South in global mission. He gives leadership on several international boards that address global challenges of hunger, poverty, and transformation.

Summing up Dr. Robinson’s teaching, he would say, “You know, until we begin to recognize how we look through others’ eyes, we will not ‘get it.’ We begin to see with new lenses first through encounter, and then into engagement. From engagement to relationship. And in relationship to wholeness and healing. And as we find others, we begin to find our true selves.” Perhaps seeing ourselves ultimately as God sees us. He is committed to understanding through exposure to, involvement with, and learning from other perspectives, and to formational rather than informational learning.

Courses Taught

  • HNGR 112: Third World Issues
  • HNGR 385: Field Research Methods and Cross-Cultural Orientation
  • HNGR 494: Global Christian Perspective
  • HNGR 495: HNGR Independent Study
  • HNGR 496: Internship in Development
  • HNGR Integration Capstone Seminar
  • ANTH 370: Peoples and Cultures of Africa

Membership in Professional Societies

  • Congo Initiative Board Member
  • Tanari International NFP Board Member and Chair
  • Africa Exchange Board Member
  • Bread for the World Board Member (2002-2005)


  • Cross-cultural, international, and experiential learning
  • African pastoralist and dryland studies; oral history
  • International development, program management and evaluation
  • Global HIV/AIDS, faith-based responses

Papers Published and/or Presented

Selected General Publications

  • and Helene Slessarev-Jamir. “How Is Science Applied Across Cultures?” In Not Just Science, edited by Dorothy F. Chappell and E.David Cook, 257-267. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.
  • “Foreword.” In Perspectives on Poverty and Development, Aklilu Dalelo. Addis Ababa, ET: ETC-DCD Publications, 2006. 
  • and W. Amalemba, D. Dortzbach, N. Kiiti, W. M. Long and C. Mwalw'a, Growing Together. A Guide for Parents and Youth, Nairobi: MAP International, 1996 and 2nd edition, 1997.
  • Choosing Hope. The Christian Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. Curriculum Modules for Theological and Pastoral Training Institutions, Editor, Nairobi: MAP International, 1996.
  • and W. Howard Brown, "Developing an Approach to Integrated Study in a Non-Western Context: The St. Lawrence University Kenya Semester Program," edited by Patricia Alden, David Lloyd and Ahmed Samatar, African Studies and the Undergraduate Curriculum, Boulder: Lynne Reinner, 1994.
  • "Reconstructing Gabra History and Chronology: Time-Reckoning, the Gabra Calendar and The Cyclical View of Life," In Coping with Drought in Kenya: National and Local Strategies, edited by Thomas E. Downing, Kangethe W. Gitu and Crispin M. Kamau, Boulder: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 1989.

Invited Papers and Presentations

  • and W.M. Long, D. Dortzbach, N. Kiiti, and C. Mwalw'a, "Overcoming Resistance to Policy Formation for AIDS Education," Paper presented at 24th Annual Conference, National Council for International Health, Arlington, 12-14 June, 1997.
  • "Changing Belief, Behavior and Practice. Choosing Hope in Responding to HIV/AIDS in Kenya," Invited paper, presented at NGO's, Humanitarian Relief and Complex Emergencies Conference, Trinity Western University, Vancouver, April, 1997
  • and Deborah A. Dortzbach, L. Njoroge, N. Kiiti, W. Amalemba and S. Mallett, “Marshaling the Influence of Church Leaders in AIDS Prevention and Counseling: Lessons Learned from Kenya,”Presented at the World AIDS Conference, Vancouver, Canada, May, 1996.
  • "The Churches and HIV/AIDS in Kenya: The MAP/AIDSCAP Experience,"Invited presentation at USAID Regional Office, Nairobi, Kenya. 8 May, 1996.
  • "HIV/AIDS and Traditional Culture."Presentation and workshop organized and led for bishops and heads of churches in Nyanza Province, Kenya, and facilitated for the Organization of African Instituted Churches. Kisumu, 3-4 May, 1996.
  • Church Policy Workshop. Presentation and workshop organized for heads of all major church denominations and para-church organizations in Kenya on church policy development regarding HIV/AIDS. Nairobi, 6, February, 1996.
  • USAID, March, May and October, 1992. Invited to present to USAID an assessment of current drought and food production shortfalls in Kenya's drylands. Assessment used in preparing official assistance requests to US government and in formulating distribution mechanisms. In October, invited to present a consultative seminar to USAID detailing development options and issues for East African dryland areas.
  • and W. Howard Brown, "Developing an Approach to Integrated Study in a Non-Western Context: The St. Lawrence University Kenya Semester Program." Invited paper for the Conference on African Studies and the Undergraduate Curriculum. New Directions for the 21st Century, October 1 - 4, 1992, Canton, New York. 
  • Participated in and presented a paper to the "Workshop on Drought in Kenya: Lessons from 1984," sponsored by the Kenya National Environmental Secretariat (NES) and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), Nairobi, 19-23 May, 1986.
  • "Building from the Past: History and Development among the Gabra of Northern Kenya." Invited seminar given at the Ford Foundation, Nairobi. 31 March, 1981.
  • "Disaster and Response among the Gabra of Northern Kenya: An Historical Perspective." Conference Paper. Ecological Stress and Adaptive Response Conference. Northwestern University/ National Museums of Kenya. Nairobi, 16-17 June, 1980.
  • "The 1890's: A Decade of Crises and Gabra Responses to Them." History Department Staff Seminar Research Paper, University of Nairobi, April 1979. (Cyclostat)