Ethiopian immigrant comes to CU Denver and earns prestigious award
University of Colorado Denver Business School graduate student Daniel Gelamichael has won a $10,000 Scholarship designed for students enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts or Master’s degree accounting program who show a high aptitude for the subject.
The award, given by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), is the latest turn in the remarkable journey Gelamichael had taken from his native Ethiopia to CU Denver. With this scholarship in hand, he hopes to work towards a graduate degree in accounting and ultimately a career as a tax specialist.
Gelamichael currently works as an agent for Frontier Airlines and part-time as a certified advanced accounting and finance tutor at CU Denver. He recalled one student who came in for tutoring in frustration because she had a D in a class. Thanks to his advice, she was able to pull it up to an A.
“Don’t memorize,” he told her. “Know the logic behind it.”
Gelamichael likes to teach from his real world experience. Before moving to the U.S., he spent six years at the Ethiopian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a Finance and Administration Attaché. While there, he helped design the financial manual for the Ethiopian Community International School in Riyadh and prompted the embassy’s switch to a computerized accounting system. He also worked four years at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
Gelamichael moved here in 2006, claiming political asylum. Once settled in Colorado, he applied to CU Denver Business School. But first he took classes at a community college for the credit required to get accepted. He needed at least a 3.0 GPA, but his own competitiveness drove him to seek higher standards.
“When my advisor told me I needed a 3.0, I didn’t go for a 3.0. I went for a 4.0,” he said.
His grades in community college far surpassed CU’s requirements and he was immediately accepted. In May, Gelamichael earned his B.A. in Business Administration. He graduated with highest honors, summa cum laude, with a 3.91 GPA, all while working well over 40 hours a week at two jobs.
“It’s really a challenge,” he said. “I don’t mind it. I like to be busy.”
In fact, he’s used life’s challenges to fuel his drive to excel.
“I take a challenge as motivation,” he said.
Faculty at CU Denver noticed Gelamichael’s work ethic and abilities and helped him win the PCAOB Scholarship, providing recommendations and encouragement.
“It’s an honor for me and an honor for the school,” said Gelamichael. “Everybody was sending me e-mails congratulating me.”
Gelamichael will start his graduate studies at CU Denver this month and with his newly won scholarship, he won’t have the burden of tuition hanging over him.
After graduation, he hopes to become a tax specialist and use his expertise to help the poor.
“Upper class people know how to get more out of the system,” he said. “Lower class first generation immigrants don’t know the system. I want to equip them with that skill so they can be more successful in business.”
His second career option is to become a university professor. Either way, he’ll look to follow the advice of writer Robert L. Stevenson, whom he quoted on his resume:
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
By D.J. Martin
Contact: [email protected]