Faculty Accolade: Dr. John Ochola

February 12, 2003

Dr. John Ochola, assistant professor, collection development librarian

Growing up in a rural area of western Kenya, Dr. John Ochola did not have the modern conveniences of electricity, running water or adequate roads, but he did have a love for books. Years later, that interest led him to Baylor, where he can be found in his office at Moody Library.
"I would find it very difficult if I had to stay away from the library," he says.
Being at Baylor as assistant professor and collection development librarian combines two of Dr. Ochola's great interests: higher education and Christianity. He became a Christian in 1977 after reading a Gospel tract from an evangelistic organization based in Nairobi, Kenya. He then joined Africa Gospel Church in Eldoret, Kenya, where he studied the Bible for one year in preparation for baptism. "It was after I was baptized in 1979 that I got the call to Christian ministry," he says.
He attended Kenya Highlands Bible College and then moved to the United States. While finishing a PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi, he learned of a faculty opening at Baylor. Inspired by Baylor's mission statement and Christian environment, he made his decision. "This is exactly what I wanted to do with my life, to serve through an institution that integrates excellence in higher education with Christian vocation," he says.
In addition to responsibilities in developing collections for the central University Libraries, Dr. Ochola teaches three courses in the African Studies Program and serves as the interim associate director of the program. This summer, he will join the program's director, Dr. Blake Burleson, in the sixth year of Baylor in East Africa. During their stay, Dr. Ochola will teach a class on contemporary issues in East Africa and open his rural home to students for a homestay among the Luo people. 
Last fall, Dr. Ochola gave a public lecture about the problems facing Kenya, where the church is in the forefront of a fight for social justice. "Having been a church minister there, there's no way you can divorce yourself from political issues," he says. In his role as an educator, Dr. Ochola believes it is important for students to know and understand the problems of developing countries such as Kenya, where the average annual income is equivalent to $360 in U.S. currency. "That is one of my foremost desires here at Baylor, to create better awareness and to help students get involved." -- Brandon Kirk