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International Affairs

Makeda Fikremariam is a senior International Affairs major with minors in Philosophy and Honors. Her Honors thesis, which she finished in December 2020, is a case study analysis of Ethiopia as a potential rising power in East Africa. Her thesis advisor was Dr. Melinda Adams (Political Science).

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Makeda’s family moved to Northern Virginia when she was young. Community, both local and global, is important to her and inspired her to study International Affairs. She came to JMU because of this sense of community—it’s a big university that feels like a small family. Makeda joined the Honors College sophomore year in order to challenge herself academically. She found friends and faculty mentors who encouraged her to succeed. In the spring of her sophomore year, she applied and received a prestigious Honors Hillcrest Scholarship. Makeda is currently studying virtually through the JMU Oxford Program.

This community-focus has spurred Makeda to engage in purposeful service work. She has been deeply involved with Fostering Abyssinia, a group that brings awareness and funding to underprivileged children in Ethiopia, and Delta Phi Epsilon: Professional Foreign Service Fraternity. She recently connected with students at other campuses to co-found the Eritrean Ethiopian Student Association of North America. In the past year, they have donated to COVID-19 relief work in Eritrea and Ethiopia, mentored high school students, and organized career panels.

Over the course of her college career, Makeda has observed a lack of diversity, particularly within the ranks of professors. At a primarily white institution (PWI) like JMU, students of color can struggle to fit into the student body. This is compounded when students also can’t identify with their professors or the content that is being presented to them. She hopes JMU will continue to make efforts to diversify the faculty and staff in the future in order to fully support our diverse students of color.

Moving forward, Makeda plans to travel this summer to Kampala, Uganda for an internship—an experience that is funded by her Honors Hillcrest Scholarship. With this additional experience in East Africa, she hopes to move into a career that is focused on empowering communities and people in developing countries.

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