Nehemia Abel ’20 secured a highly competitive Payne Fellowship, sponsored by USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development. Only 15 of the fellowships, which cover most of the cost of graduate school, were awarded for 2021.
The fellowship seeks outstanding individuals interested in careers in the foreign service of USAID. It enables them to work “on the front lines of some of the most pressing global challenges of our times,” according to the fellowship website.
Abel left the east African nation of Burundi with help from USAID, and he wants to return the gift. “I would like to give back by assisting others living in crisis situations globally,” he said.
The UMW marketing graduate will pursue a master’s degree in international development from Georgetown University, which he chose after also being accepted by Columbia, Johns Hopkins, George Washington, Howard, and American universities. The Payne Fellowship provides up to $96,000 in benefits over two years for graduate school, internships, and professional development activities.
At Mary Washington, Abel received the Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership and worked closely with multicultural organizations to promote diversity and inclusion. He received the 2020 Grace Mann Launch Award that honors a late student leader and social justice activist.
Abel collaborated with Habitat for Humanity and Micah Ecumenical Ministries to serve homeless in the Fredericksburg area. He and his older brother co-founded an organization that serves Burundian refugees in the area, helping them pursue higher education and preparing them for the workplace.
Abel is also a Fulbright semifinalist.