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Ethiopian-American Alumna Fostering STEM in Africa

Ethiopian-American Alumna Fostering STEM in Africa

Kidist Gebreamlak is an African American woman who describes herself as ‘a person of two worlds – Africa and the U.S. She is a strategic and empathic leader who thrives on initiatives and programs that require diverse cultural, social, economic and political settings. She is a passionate believer in the untapped potential of Africa and Africans. Her vision is to strengthen the U.S.-Africa relationship through education, experience sharing and mentoring. To that end, Gebreamlak resettled in Ethiopia after living in the U.S. to be an agent of change and to help the African continent and its people thrive.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:

I received my Associates Degree from NOVA, a B.A. in International Development & African American Studies (minor) from George Mason University and an M.A. in Sustainable Development (Strategy & Policy) from the School for International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute in D.C. I was enrolled in a doctor in liberal studies (DLS) program at Southern Methodist University to study and research on human-centered design thinking for sustainable development before I withdrew due to frequent, long-distance travels for work.

Further in my career, I founded Eleos Group LLC, which mainly operates in Africa and works on capacity-building, focusing on areas of business and public leadership, digitally enabled services and 21st Century skills in partnership with Zero-One-Zero-One Tech and Entrepreneurship PLC, Ethiopia, an LLC I also co-founded in Ethiopia.

Previously, I served as the board president and CEO of STEMpower Inc. headquartered in Massachusetts, where I led results-driven, thriving projects across Africa. During my tenure, STEMpower established over 49 STEM centers in East Africa. I was instrumental in drafting the Ethiopian STEM Education Framework which was endorsed and is being implemented by the Ministry of Education (MoE). STEMpower under my leadership worked hand-in-hand with governmental institutions and universities in Ethiopia, South Sudan and Rwanda.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all STEM Centers were inactive. I utilized this time to cultivate and establish a new Fabrication Lab (FabLab) in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia, located at the ministry offices. The FabLab is the first of its kind in Ethiopia. It provides technical and resource support and expert advice for innovators, alongside training and coaching on entrepreneurship and digital banking to foster tech-startups in partnership with VISA.

A few months ago, Kidist received an invitation from the Ethiopia Academy of Science (EAS) to co-write a chapter on STEM education and commercialization in Ethiopia, for a book titled Ethiopia: Toward a Knowledge-Driven Economy, which is to be published this month.

Prior to STEMpower, I became a member of AmeriCorps Vista and served as service project development lead for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNSS) and worked as a program specialist for the Institute for Leadership Impact, Southern Methodist University, Texas. I also held consulting and program support positions at the World Bank Group Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

What brought you to NOVA?

I attended NOVA after learning about the college from alumni friends and family members. First, the price per credit hour was cheaper compared to universities. In addition to being close to where I was living, distance wise, NOVA Alexandria was by then the most diverse campus compared to the other campuses. The diversity put me at ease. More importantly, the small classrooms or the faculty-to-student ratio enabled students to get more support and guidance from faculty. Career and financial advisors who have experience in working with first-generation Americans were an additional blessing, adding to what NOVA had to offer. The college had and still has several student unions and clubs that provide opportunities to gain life and work skills and experiences.

In my time at NOVA, I served as the secretary/treasurer of the African American Student Union (2008), president of the African American Student Union (2009) and was vice chair of the Election Committee for the Student Government Association (2009). I received my associate degree in liberal arts: International Studies Specialization and African American Studies from NOVA.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?

First, come to NOVA! The price is affordable! Learn about financial aid. Keep in mind loans must be paid back. The career advisors are here to guide you. Make use of them. You need their advice from the ‘get-go,’ not when you are about to graduate or transfer from NOVA. Research and reach out to universities who have guaranteed admission agreements with NOVA. Get their degree programs (specializations), prices, campus locations and, more importantly, the transferable and non-transferable courses from NOVA. Get involved in student activities and clubs. You gain experience and build networks that last a lifetime.

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA; i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.

I had mentors during and after NOVA. Among them was the late Dr. Joe Windham, a beloved NOVA Alexandria history professor who passed away in 2014. He was not just a professor at NOVA’s Alexandria Campus, he was more like a mentor or a parental figure we never had. He had a (special) big heart, not only for African Americans but also for new immigrant students who struggle to adjust to the American education system and to the country as a whole.

He always believed in us. He saw and appreciated us in a way we couldn't see or value ourselves. He understood our struggles. Should health or family issues or financial needs hinder any of his students from going to school, he would jump in and start looking for ways, left and right, to put him/her back on track.

He was a professor that would bring in professional outfits to better prepare his students for possible job interviews.

Even after graduation, a student might disappear from him for years and give him a call or shoot him an email looking for any sort of support (references, recommendations, advice) and he would surely reach back in a day or two, at most.

I had this great classmate, who is now a mentor and friend, Ms. Paula Kougeas. She currently teaches English as a Second Language at NOVA, Alexandria Campus. I met her over a decade ago in the late Jean Braden’s Middle East History class. Since then, Kougeas has been a cheerleader, advisor and source of support and encouragement. Whenever I am back in D.C., I make sure that I call or text Paula. She is a source of encouragement and offers insightful guidance. Most importantly, I enjoy her friendship. I hope to take her to Ethiopia one day.

Check out some links of interviews and news articles featuring Kidist from VISA, in Ethiopia, Rwanda!








Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.