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U niversity of Colorado alumnus Semira Kassahun has been working overtime ever since she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree on Dec. 16.

While many recent graduates take time off to enjoy the holidays, Kassahun is making the final preparations for a two-month trip to Ethiopia early next year.

Kassahun is anxiously awaiting final approval of the research proposal she has been working on for the past two years.

“I’m almost ready, minus packing and a plane ticket,” Kassahun said.

Kassahun said it has been a dream of hers to work in public health since high school. She said research in Ethiopia would be a giant step in the right direction.

Once approved, Kassahun will travel to a hospital in Ethiopia where she will gather and analyze data pertaining to the relationship Rickets disease has to the mortality rate in children less than 5-years-old.

Kassahun said she can currently only work with data, but when attending medical school, she’ll have the ability to develop research into something more tangible that could possibly save lives.

“I have thought about opening clinics around the world and serving underprivileged kids in underdeveloped countries,” Kassahun said. “I know my dreams are big but I can narrow them later. For now, I just want to serve people who are under served.”

Weldu Weldeyesus, an instructor at CU, said Kessahun has overcome the challenges that come with international research projects quickly. He said her passion for public health is obvious and guides her determination.

“She has always been interested in the area of public health and in conducting research that would have some practical implications in alleviating — if not eradicating — an existing problem,” Weldeyesus said. “I envisage a bright future for Semira.”

Andrea Iglesias, licensed psychologist, worked with Kassahun at CU’s Counseling and Psychological Services department. Iglesias said Kassahun’s leadership qualities were evident, especially while working with students.

“I think what strikes me the most about Semira, is her genuine care of others and desire to find ways to offer her support and encouragement to help others thrive, while also being invested in her own learning and growth,” Iglesias said.

Kassahun said her involvement with programs like CAPS reinforced her plans for the future.

Besides her research, Kassahun said she’s excited to visit the country where her parents were raised and where much of her family remains.

Kassahun has never been to Ethiopia and has never met her grandparents or many of her aunts and uncles.

“I’m just so excited to visit there and meet my family,” Kassahun said. “It fit my research well and being able to reconnect with my background and my culture is really exciting.”

Kassahun should know by mid-January when she will be leaving for Ethiopia, but until then she said she is still trying to get used to being a graduate instead of a student.

“It’s still weird not having homework to do,” Kassahun said. “I still feel like a student for now, but I’m sure I’ll be too busy with research to think about it soon.”

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