Girma Demie sitting on campus

A degree decades in the making

Refugee from Ethiopia perseveres on long path to graduation

December 12, 2018

Girma Demie first started college in his home country of Ethiopia over 25 years ago. Now, he’s receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Public Service (BAPS) degree. You might find inspiration in the story of his long path to graduation.

“He has overcome significant challenges in life to really thrive [at CU Denver].”

When government powers changed suddenly, he had to leave Ethiopia for his safety. He became a refugee in Kenya, living the first few years in a tent with college friends. As a refugee, he was unable to continue his education, so instead, he taught science and math to unaccompanied minors in the camp.

Life felt hopeless for him, but the birth of his daughter ignited his desire to move to the United States. In 2000 he was able to make that move with his wife – a fellow refugee – and their two kids.

Over the past 18 years, Demie has worked hard and moved up the ladder in a medical manufacturing company, now supervising more than 40 individuals on a manufacturing floor. But he never lost his desire to finish school.

Needing to balance his full-time job, Demie was ecstatic to see he could get a BAPS degree exclusively online at CU Denver. Even as an online student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, his instructors and classmates recognized his drive.

“Girma was an active participant throughout my class, adding insight and deep reflection to the discussions,” said one of his instructors. “He was supportive of other students and worked hard throughout the term, balancing school, full-time work and family.”

At commencement, Demie will receive not only his degree but also the first-ever BAPS Outstanding Student Award. Here’s what the faculty member who nominated him for the award said about him:

Demie’s not done yet. He hopes to get his master’s degree and PhD before going abroad to help other refugees.