Determination Pays Off

Compiled by the IRC Office,

Kaleb Bekure is one of the 2019 graduates of St. Mary’s University, who was awarded a Trophy and a Medal. He graduated from the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, regular program with a Cumulative GPA of 4.0.

Aiming to draw lessons for those who are pursuing their studies at SMU and beyond, the International Relations and Communication Office of SMU interviewed Kaleb to share his experiences and the factors that contributed to his success.

Kaleb, before reaching this level, had gone through many challenges. Upon completion of preparatory education, he was assigned at Gondar University to study Engineering although his interest was to study either Medicine or Public Health. Kaleb got into depression right after he had started his study and as a result discontinued his education and returned home. He then took a break for a year.

After discussing with his parents, he joined Bethel Teaching Hospital’s Medical School, hoping to enjoy his passion of studying Medicine. However, he relapsed into depression and discontinued his study again. With this, Kaleb reached the extent of thinking that “He doesn’t have the capacity to learn; neither was he created for education, nor education for him”.

Losing hope of continuing his education, he trained and got a driving license to become a driver. At this juncture, his sister intervened to assist and suggested that Tourism and Hospitality Management would be good for him and he could get training through special personal class (by a personal tutor) and would earn a certificate afterwards. Accepting his sister’s advice, Kaleb joined Ibex Hotel and Tourism College in Addis Ababa and earned a certificate after completing the three month’s special personal class by scoring excellent grades. Besides, parallel to attending the three month’s training, he, along with second year students, visited the well-known tourist destinations and historical sites in the country, which had helped him develop passion for tourism and hospitality. Considering his outstanding performance, the College encouraged him to pursue his Diploma. Working extremely hard, he completed his Diploma with outstanding performance winning a trophy award.

When he planned to do his first degree, he heard that St. Mary’s University offers a Bachelor’s Degree program in Tourism & Hospitality Management. He then joined the University. While studying, he dedicated all his might and graduated with very great distinction.

We had asked Kaleb about factors that contributed to his academic success, to which he responded as follows.

He attributes his success to God and his parents who take the lion’s share in many respects. They had supported him throughout all the ups and downs he went through until he finally knew his right choice and passion. “They did not give up on me; they encouraged me throughout all my journeys to help me become myself. Even at those times of absolute depression when I felt hopeless, they were there for me to help me live my passion”, he applauded their contributions to his being.

He also attributes his achievements to SMU. He said that the manageable class size (they were only thirty students in class) at the Department had helped him and his classmates to develop a family-like intimacy with the instructors. Most of the instructors were very good and supportive, according to him.

Asked about his personal qualities that contributed to his academic success, he responded as follows.

Kaleb told us that students, to succeed in their learning, should “firstly, search for their talents, follow their passion persistently, never give up, push forward, try again and again, and work hard until they get there.” Secondly, he said, students should “study hard and make effective use of their time and might.” They should also avoid being satisfied easily, he added.

As the tradition at St. Mary’s University has it, Kaleb was given a full scholarship to pursue his Master’s study at the University. Kaleb is currently an academic staff at the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, from which he graduated, while simultaneously pursuing his Master’s Degree in Marketing Management at the School of Graduate Studies of SMU.

Looking back to the 10th Anniversary


ZewduWondim, B.A., Amharic (Gold medalist and double scholarship winner of SMU)

2007 Distance Graduate, DebreMarkos (had also earned diploma from SMU in 2001)

When I was all alone with no one to turn to, St. Mary's University listened to my woes, and to many other people in similar situation, with all the hope one would need: magnificent opportunity to pursue higher education. Having completed my diploma with flying colors, I was granted full scholarship to continue my degree program. The institution never ceases to amaze all; it once again provided me with a scholarship for graduate studies. Currently, I am a Sociology student of the renowned Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), India, which is offering its post graduate programs in partnership with St. Mary's University in Ethiopia.

Thanks to the quality education I have obtained from SMU, I have come out to be victorious in this world of fierce competition. What can I say? Words are too weak to express what SMU has done for me.

Thank you from the depth of my heart.

Solomon Ketsela, Diploma, Accounting,

2004 Extension Programme Graduate

I graduated with a diploma in Accounting from SMU in 2004.   I congratulate the University College on its 10th anniversary.  Your highly qualified and disciplined instructors have given me quality training and I have been the better for it.

Tsehay H/Michael, B.A., Management

2006 Distance Graduate, Addis Ababa

I am very much pleased to have this opportunity to say few words about St. Mary’s University.  For me SMU is notably known for high quality education, qualified and dedicated professionals (editors, tutors and others), standard self-instructional materials and its considerable contribution in producing skilled manpower for the overall development of the country. No doubt, the University is the first to take credit for my efficiency in my current job and my confidence in my Master’s level education in Public Administration I am currently pursuing at SMU-IGNOU.

Congrats on your achievements so far!

ErmiasGobebo, LLB, Law

2007 Distance Graduate (had also earned diploma from SMU in 2001 E.C.), Awassa

St. Mary’s has brought a glimmer of hope for working people, like me, by availing opportunity for higher education at their doorsteps. Having earned my diploma and degree from this esteemed institution, I am now practicing law with high degree of confidence not to mention the fact that I have become a well-respected figure in the society.

Thank you for the glorious opportunity you have offered us.



Dr. Nicholas Dima

Formerly a Higher Diploma Leader in SMU from IFESH, Arizona

Geography is the kingdom of Terra, and History is the Prince that reigns over the kingdom. To know our larger “home,” the planet, we have to travel widely. To know its history we only have to read. And what we learn is how much we have changed the world, and how little we have changed ourselves. Yet by traveling, we change ourselves, too, and this is what I did by teaching in Ethiopia. If Ethiopia is now a republic centered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia St. Mary's University College is Ethiopia’s princess. And the older Ethiopia gets, the more knowledge it acquires, and the more beautiful its princess.

Modern man is some 50 thousand years old and it all started in Ethiopia. The diminutive and beautiful Lucy, Dinkenesh in Amharic, is proof that humanity began in Ethiopia. If settled life is about 10,000 years and recorded history is 6,500 years, Ethiopia has a known history of 3,000 years. By comparison, Addis Ababa is rather young and St. Mary's University College is only ten years old, but they have thousands of years of history and culture behind them and many more ahead of them.

I spent two years in Addis Ababa teaching at St. Mary's University College where I was assigned by the U.S. International Foundation for Education and Self Help (IFESH). I do not know how much I enriched these two institutions, but I know that they enriched me a lot. I taught my students new pedagogical and international knowledge, and they taught me old world wisdom, tolerance and patience. St. Mary’s was both family and home for me. Teaching and touching others, I continued to learn and to improve myself. I learned a little humility and a lot of love. I fell in love with Lucy and with Ethiopia and I left my heart in Addis. For all this past experience I am grateful to the leaders and administrators of the University College, to my colleagues, and to the students.

Thinking retroactively, it seems like a dream. Have I ever been there or I dreamt of it? And if it was all real, could I have done anything differently and better? Yes, I could, but God took me to Ethiopia too late. Maybe one day I will go back and convince myself that it wasn’t a dream.



Prof Kate Ashcroft

Director, Ashcroft and Rayner Consulting Ltd.

Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

VSO Management Adviser & Acting Director Higher Education Strategy Centre in Ethiopia (2003 -5).

I was delighted to write this article when I was approached by St. Mary's University College senior management to write about St. Mary’s development and contribution. I have known and worked closely with St. Mary’s since I was appointed as Higher Education Management Adviser to the Ministry of Education in 2003 and later as the first Acting Director of the Higher Education Strategy Centre (HESC) when it was located in the Ministry of Education.

St. Mary’s is the private institution that has influenced Ethiopia’s Higher Education system and contributed to top policy formulation perhaps more than any other private institution and certainly more than most public sector universities. This influence has been entirely positive.

An early contribution was to advise and lobby the government on the 2003 Higher Education Proclamation. The management of St Mary’s University College was an enthusiastic supporter of the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) and lobbied for it to be set up and discussed its terms of reference with the Minster when the Proclamation was being written. It was not surprising that the President of St. Mary’s was then made a member of the HERQA Board and has championed its independence and its right to fearless auditing and the publication of results ever since.

I first became aware of St. Mary’s positive influence when the President was invited to be a member of a small, select and well respected team that developed the Higher Education Systems Overhaul (HESO) report into Governance, Leadership and Management across Ethiopia’s higher education system. This document became the basis of a reform agenda within the public and private sectors of higher education and within the Ministry itself. Many of the positive developments and the agenda for reforms in higher education in the country, including public sector higher education, can be traced to ideas in this document: the importance of institutional autonomy in a context of accountability to stakeholders, reform of the functioning and membership of university boards, reform of university funding, process of reengineering as a way of increasing efficiency and effectiveness and so on. It is a tribute to the generosity of St Mary’s management to the system as a whole that so much time and energy was put into improving the system in the country.

Another major contribution of St. Mary's University College has been to the development of the Association of Private Higher Education Institutions.

St Mary’s, along with few other private institutions, was a main driver for the development of this Association, which was far ahead of the equivalent body for the public sector. The Association has been a force for good within the sector, enabling the sharing of good practice and the development of positive policies that could be shared with the government. My colleagues and I were regularly asked by St. Mary’s to speak to the Association so that they could be fully informed of the latest ideas and techniques in higher education.

One of the principal ways that St Mary’s University College influences the system as a whole and contributes to policy is by ensuring it is at the forefront of developments itself. St. Mary’s commitment to the staff development of its employees is second to none. It has also pioneered training in modern, employment focused skills development through practical teaching and active learning techniques. It has been interested in and experimented with newer assessment methods that promote more effective student learning.

Another way that St. Mary's University College has influenced the sector as a whole is in the establishment of standards for facilities. It is a tribute to St. Mary’s that short term profits and cost savings have never been the priority. St Mary’s realies that, to remain a destination of choice for higher education students, it must invest in its plant, facilities and staff. Other private higher education institutions that seek to be in the higher echelons of the sector rather than degree mills, have to compete with St. Mary’s investment. This will create a positive cycle of quality and investment that will lead to some select private higher education institutions, including St. Mary’s , constitutes the country’s higher education elite.

Of course, one of the features of an elite higher education institution is its research profile. St. Mary’s has shown how this may be achieved. Staffs have been encouraged to undertake research and to publish it, annual conferences are now seen as prestige events with national and international academics of high repute happy to contribute their research papers. St. Mary’s staff showcases their research at these events and demonstrates that the quality produced is as good as the best institutions in the country.

Finally, as well as excellence in teaching and research, a prestige institution must demonstrate its commitment to the world of work and its partnership with public and private organisations that will employ its graduates. St. Mary's University College has achieved this by lobbying for and contributing to a task force aimed at developing public/private partnership and policy in higher education under the leadership of HESC. It has also demonstrated its commitment through a range of partnerships with employers and developing work placements for its students.

St. Mary's University College has invested for the future in its infrastructure and its quality. It has contributed greatly to the country through the quality of its thinking and its willingness to devote its resources to the common good. It has remained utterly focused on giving its students the best quality education possible, and has understood this is not possible in an institution that fails to invest in its research profile and the teaching skills of its staff. It has developed excellent academic links with institutions and individuals around the world, with employers, with other higher education institutions in Ethiopia and with the government. As a consequence of this, St. Mary‘s is recognised by the government, other institutions, employers, parents and students as an elite institution that deserves and receives respect. Thus, St Mary’s is well placed to continue to develop over the next decade and indeed over many decades as a beacon of excellence that will influence policy and development in Ethiopian higher education for the better.

* The testimonywas given before St. Mary's earned tne status of a University