Amazing Students Profiles

Tia Ayele

Tia Ayele

Tia Ayele, a Boren Scholar majoring in international affairs, has seen firsthand the economic woes facing parts of Africa and plans to dedicate her “life to public service as an agent for change.”


Stone Mountain, Ga.

High School:

Tucker High School

Degree objective:

B.A. in international affairs

Other degrees:

Minor in African studies; Foreign Policy Analysis Program Certificate and Global Studies Certificate

Expected graduation:

Spring 2014

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

As an Honors student, I have received support and opportunities that have helped me succeed at UGA. Last year, I was one of only 161 undergraduate students in the nation to be awarded the prestigious Boren Scholarship. As a Boren Scholar, I was granted $20,000 to study and research in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 2012-2013 academic year. While there, I continued my track of international affairs and participated in intensive language training in Amharic and Arabic. That same year, I was the only undergraduate student selected as an intern at the Ethiopian Development Research Institute, a leading economic policy think tank that supplies information to governments throughout Africa. I also publicly engaged in the local community in Ethiopia by serving as a nonpaid teaching assistant at New Generation University College, in which I was promoted to a senior thesis adviser after working for one year.

I am an associate editor of the Georgia Political Review, Georgia’s first student-run journal of politics and international affairs, and was appointed marketing director, a one-year position, last year. I was selected as a member of the Freshman Board of the Student Government Association, which is composed of 15 first-year students chosen to represent the freshman class, and have heavily participated in the Multicultural Committee and in two SGA campaigns.

I raised $1,400 for UGA’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity as a store leader in the Gift Wrap Across Georgia campaign and was an Alternative Spring Break volunteer to fight homelessness in Chicago. I was a part of efforts to combat the famine in Somalia by serving on a relief committee of the African Student Union and served as the community service chairman of the Ethiopian Student Association, while it was still active on campus.

I have worked as a summer research assistant at the British Standards Institute, conducted Honors-level research through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities for a semester with faculty, and have further conducted research with the Roosevelt Institute. I am one of 12 students to serve as an ambassador to the School of Public and International Affairs and volunteer as a counselor for the Black Educational Support Team. I have made the dean’s list every semester, and have received the UGA Presidential Leadership Scholarship, along with the HOPE Scholarship and other honors, which have allowed me to fund my undergraduate degree.

Family Ties to UGA:

I have no family ties to the University of Georgia.

I chose to attend UGA because…

… it was honestly the best choice in terms of affordability. Upon completion of my first year, I learned that it was the best decision I had ever made. I attend one of the most highly ranked public schools in the nation and take classes from renowned experts in the School of Public and International Affairs. As an Honors student, I have the best of both worlds: I attend a large, research grant university but still get the small, tightknit community feel from the Honors college.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

I don’t get to spend too much leisure time on campus, but when I do, I enjoy reconnecting with friends, meeting new people and attending the many programs held by student organizations. There’s always something great to do or to learn on campus.

When I have free time, I like…

… to indulge in nonfiction books, watch liberal news outlets, incessantly drink coffee, jog, play basketball and take up new adventures with friends. I also love to secretly write music; I’ve been writing and composing songs since the age of 10.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

… spend an afternoon at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa based in Addis Ababa. While on the grounds of the U.N., I had the opportunity to meet with senior-level officials who worked on issues that I hope to grapple with in the future. We had lunch and spent an hour casually discussing the current situation in Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and development in general. The fact that I was actively engaging in discourse with these figureheads in African development and that they were actually impressed by my opinions was mind-boggling. My dream job is to work at the ECA and devote my career to finding policy solutions for Africa’s economic woes.

My favorite place to study is…

… in my room with the door locked and loud music playing. I know it sounds typical, but I love the comfort of being in my home during the studying process. It’s so convenient. However, I do enjoy the law library when studying more intensely. Its scenic view of Herty Field and its quiet ambiance are conducive for a good study session during the day.

My favorite professor is…

… Sherry Lowrance. My freshman year, I conducted Honors-level research with Dr. Lowrance on the future of Christianity in the Middle East. This was one of my most memorable experiences at UGA. Dr. Lowrance is an expert on Middle Eastern studies and her undying passion toward issues in her field fueled my own passion for the developing world. Moreover, her diligence in working with me strengthened my research skills—skills that I was able to expand upon throughout my undergraduate career.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… my mom and dad. Although there are plenty of influential people that I would be excited to meet, including Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin and Cornel West, time spent with my parents is always priceless. My mom is the source of my fearlessness and ambition, and my father teaches me about selflessness, joy and optimism every time I see him. I would spend every afternoon with them if I could.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… sustainably develop all of sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where hunger and malnutrition have been projected to increase in the future. I would focus on revamping the agricultural sector and directly addressing all of the agricultural inefficiencies. Contrary to popular opinion, Africa is a land of abundant human capital, vast natural resources and unlimited potential. I am confident that with good policy and institutional reforms, the trend of African development can turn a new leaf. I plan to dedicate my life to these very efforts.

After graduation, I plan to…

… spend at least a year working in the federal government, which is required of me as a Boren Scholar. My eyes are currently set on the State Department in Washington, D.C. After that, I will pursue a joint master’s degree in international development and public policy.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… my experience in Ethiopia. My yearlong adventures lent me a new perspective on life and on the world in general. My experience abroad also helped solidify my professional and personal goals. I now know that I want to dedicate my life to public service as an agent for change. I will forever be indebted to UGA, the Honors program and the National Security Education Program for facilitating and supporting this experience.