Humans of UK: Kondwani Phwandaphwanda combines creativity and education


Carter Skaggs

Kondwani Phwandaphwanda, also known as “Dr. K.,” poses for a photo on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, at the Lewis Honors College in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Carter Skaggs | Staff

Zaida Bell-Frantz, Reporter

Kondwani Phwandaphwanda, or as his students and colleagues know him, Dr. K, is not only a fierce educator but a passionate musician and a talented soccer player.  

Hailing from Malawi, Africa, Phwandaphwanda traveled to the United States in 1995 to pursue his graduate education at the University of Arkansas and has since found his home in Lexington, Kentucky. 

As the director of college life for the University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College, Phwandaphwanda has the unique opportunity of orchestrating orientations for new college students, giving them the first taste of their college experience. 

“Everything from orientation, reaching out to students over the summer to connect them with their peers, this time of year is my favorite because for the first time these students are beginning to transition from high school, leaving things behind and connecting with each other,” he said.  

Coming to the United States as an international student proved very difficult for Phwandaphwanda. Everything from the language to the food, and even the weather arose a new set of challenges. Having to learn a new culture and a new education system became the most challenging, he said. 

Growing up in Malawi, English wasn’t something Phwandaphwanda was introduced to, so he said he usually memorized what he was told for exams. 

“When I came to the United States, that had to shift into understanding things and applying them,” he said. 

The language barrier forced Phwandaphwanda to push himself to learn something new in order to further his education. 

Having earned multiple degrees, ranging from master’s in music education and political science to a doctorate in education, Phwandaphwanda uses his experiences coming from Malawi as a student to fuel his mantra for education.

“It starts with understanding the needs of students,”  he said. 

According to Phwandaphwanda, the reason he loves his job so much starts with the understanding that “college is a new experience,” and his goal is to make each student feel at home at University of Kentucky and like they have someone they know they can count on.  

Outside of work, Phwandaphwanda enjoys making and producing his own music, as well as playing soccer. 

Playing instruments such as guitar, various percussion and singing, he enjoys writing traditional songs with roots in Malawi that he grew up around. Phwandaphwanda has his own Soundcloud on which he produces all the content on his own. 

In addition to his artistic side, Phwandaphwanda loves taking to the soccer field and playing midfielder. A unique left footed kicker, Phwandaphwanda said he uses his skills by coaching youth soccer.   

He said he tries to inspire and fuel the passions of those around him.

“Be open to other people’s ideas,” he said. “There’s a reason why we get in classrooms as students; be open to learning and growing from each other.”