Hamline News

Raie Gessesse ’20 Awarded Soros Fellowship


Alumna Raie Gessesse ’20 has been awarded a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Chosen from a pool of 2,445 applicants, Gessesse is one of 30 outstanding individuals selected for their potential to make significant contributions to the United States.

Gessesse will receive up to $90,000 in funding for her graduate studies at Harvard Kennedy School where she will pursue a Master in Public Policy.

Born and raised in Minnesota to parents who emigrated from Ethiopia by way of a Diversity Immigrant Visa, Gessesse is passionate about public policy, the law and public service.

“My parents worked endlessly in pursuit of the American Dream,” said Gessesse. “I learned from their experiences about the policy and legal challenges immigrants face in the United States.”

She stepped into public service and advocacy at a young age and has not looked back.

At 18, Gessesse was appointed by former Gov. Mark Dayton to serve as a cabinet member on the state’s first-ever Young Women’s Cabinet. In 2019, she was awarded the national Truman Scholarship for her commitment to public service and was selected as a Public Policy & International Affairs Fellowship (PPIA) Scholar at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in public health and political science at Hamline University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors.

“Professor Susi Keefe is the reason I was drawn to studying public health and the health disparities in Minnesota and across our country,” said Gessesse. “Professor David Schultz is the reason I connected issues of health to power, politics and policy and why I explore how we can be more intentional in our conversations on health policy.”

The Soros Fellowship application included submitting two essays, which Gessesse used as an opportunity to connect with her parents.

“I was able to bring my parents on the essay-writing journey with me,” she said. “We were able to talk deeply about their experiences when they first immigrated here (just four months before giving birth to me) and how they managed to make a way for themselves and me. These conversations made me even more proud to be the daughter of first-generation immigrants and a first-generation student paving a path in the US for myself and future generations.”

Currently, Gessesse is the Midwest program manager for IGNITE National, one of the country’s largest young women's political organizations. She is the resident fellow and program coordinator for Hamline University's Center for Justice & Law, where she manages student workers, coordinates event logistics, invites high-profile speakers and designs programming with Keefe, the center’s director, who is a mentor and former advisor to Gessesse.

“Raie’s brilliance, motivation and confidence are exceptional,” said Keefe. “I have no doubt that the Soros Fellowship and the opportunity at Harvard are only the beginning for her.”

Link to press release.

Written by staff.