Alumnus Awarded 2021 Payne Fellowship

The College of Business is proud to recognize 2020 graduate, Nehemia Abel, for receiving a 2021 Payne Fellowship through the U.S. Department of State, which “provides up to $96,000 in benefits over two years for graduate school, internships, and professional development activities.”  The Payne Fellowship is a highly competitive program, though for many it is no surprise that Abel, who was highly involved in the UMW and Fredericksburg communities, made the cut.

While pursuing a degree in marketing, Abel, who is a Burundian refugee, sought opportunities to promote diversity and multiculturalism on campus through participation in events through the James Farmer Multicultural Center, leadership roles with the African Student Union and Brothers of a New Direction, and as a mentor with RISE.  He also helped co-found the non-profit organization, Ubumwe, which assists Burundian refugees with pursuing higher education and careers.

This commitment to helping the community and promoting positive social change, as well as his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and Micah Ecumenical Ministries, earned him the UMW 2019-20 Mary Washington Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership.

Currently, Abel is working as a fellow at the U.S.-Africa Business Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for trade between Africa and the United States.  Speaking of his experience to current UMW students at the February 25 event, Life in the Fast Lane, he said that one of his favorite experiences in this position so far has been meeting the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa.

During this event, he also strongly encouraged students to take a lot of research classes, as he has found that research helps in learning how to do a job.  And, as for the job search, he told students that persistence and keeping themselves “up front” when they are seeking opportunities is key.

There is no doubt that Abel’s positive attitude, drive, and commitment to helping others will make him an asset to any organization he joins, and we are proud to call this Payne Fellow an Eagle.

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