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Student Breaks New Ground for Her Immigrant Family

Kogod School of Business student Tsedal Teshome is a trailblazer, the first in her Ethiopian family to earn a degree. She knows firsthand the weight of that journey—and what a dramatic difference a scholarship can make.

“My family always emphasized the power of education and how it is a privilege,” she said. “As an immigrant to the United States, I have faced social, financial, and academic challenges. These factors have helped me better understand the power of education and have motivated me to work hard in life.”

Teshome sees American University as a place where people like her—first-generation students, immigrants, people of color—can excel.

Tsedal Teshome, Kogod '22

“Our high school had people come to speak about different universities. One was American University, and I attended the event with my friend for the sole purpose of supporting her,” Teshome recalled. “After listening to the speaker, my friend and I decided to attend one of the AU multicultural nights and I fell in love.

“As cliche as it sounds, I felt at home when I set foot on campus. I met a lot of friendly faces and, more importantly to me, faces that resembled mine,” she added.

Teshome has always worked or interned while studying “to help ends meet,” and that responsibility lightened when she received AU’s Hechinger Foundation Scholarship, which supports an undergraduate student majoring in business. Preference is given to African-American students in the DC area.

Scholarships like this are a linchpin of the Change Can’t Wait campaign because of their direct impact on students’ lives. “I truly cannot express how big of a role it plays and the true magnitude of its effect,” Teshome said.  

Teshome, whose family came to the United States seven years ago, is active in the Ethiopian and Eritrean Student Association and business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. This summer, she has an internship in the commercial audit department of KPMG and is “loving every second of it.” Last summer, she was an intern with Ernst & Young.

On track to graduate in 2022, she plans to become a certified public accountant and pursue a career in public accounting. She also has a longer term plan: to launch a financial literacy program that targets members of marginalized communities who lack the skills to meet their financial goals.

“I hope that by providing these services to the public, these communities will be better equipped to confidently make educated financial decisions,” Teshome said. “These goals are what drove me to become a business major.”