McNair Profile - Tsion Mamo
As an Ethiopian first generation immigrant, Tsion moved to the United States with her family in 1996 when she was only seven years old. Her parents relocated her and her two brothers to afford them opportunities not available in their country of origin. Tsion noted that the apartment that her mother secured in Connecticut a year before she arrived is the same residence in which they have lived ever since.
Because of the US American language and culture, Tsion found it was extremely difficult to adjust, especially because the people were very different from those to whom she was accustomed. She recalled thinking that her family was on vacation and begged her parents to go home everyday for months. Many of the hardships suffered resulted from being the only Ethiopian family in town. Tsion expressed that the English for Second Language Learners classes were where she met most of her friends. And, she observed that it was nice to be around people with whom she could relate because English was not their first language either.
It is this struggle to become a part that causes one to be mesmerized by Tsion’s accomplishments. Early encounters with Tsion in her freshman year showed no tell-tale sign of difference. There was nothing in her presentation (cultural or linguistic) to suggest that she was born and experienced the formative years of her development outside the US. Since her arrival to this country, no matter the toil, she has learned well the lessons of fitting into the mainstream.
However, while she may on the surface appear to be a typical college student, Tsion stands out as driven to succeed. She is a person of high moral character, academically disciplined and focused. She thinks deeply and considers carefully elements of conversation, critically analyzing varying points of view, and offers insightful commentary. She goes above and beyond minimal expectations as she has a personal commitment to excellence. She is a student to whom other students look to as a leader and she bears the responsibility well.
It is the challenging experiences of her parents that push Tsion onward, ever forward. Her parents left behind their family and friends to start from scratch here in the U.S. Her father grew up in a poor family and worked hard to get himself through college and take care of his mother and sibling after the death of his father. He received an agricultural degree from a university. He then worked as head of an agricultural company. Her mother also worked hard to get into the same university. But, when her father tried to get a similar job here in the U.S., he could not. He then sought employment with any company that would hire him so he could provide for his family. He has been working as a mechanic ever since. Her mother worked at night at a garage and later at an insurance firm while going to school. It took her six years before she graduated from Central Connecticut State University.
Tsion is immensely grateful for the sacrifices of her parents. In describing her heartfelt sentiment, she had this to say:
My parents basically mean the world to me. The only reason why they left their comfortable lives in Ethiopia was to provide my brothers and me with the opportunities that they didn’t have growing up. This is what drives me to accomplish my goals. I consider myself lucky to be living in the U.S. where I have the opportunity to attend college. Many of my cousins back in Ethiopia do not have half of the opportunities that I do.
Because of her interest in attending graduate school and earning a doctorate degree in the field of psychology, Tsion applied to the McNair Scholars Program. “After doing my research about the program, I decided that this is something that can help me attain this goal... The benefits that come from being in the program – research experience and overall preparation for grad school – are outstanding” she said. Tsion also said that the program was highly recommended by friends, faculty and mentors at UNH.
As a McNair student, Tsion will conduct an academic research project beginning summer 2009. This spring she concluded the research inquiry seminar where she designed a research proposal. It is no surprise that her personal experiences underpin her research interests. While she is curious about human behavior in the broad sense, she is most acutely concerned with the motivation and resilience of immigrant children. However, this summer she will focus her McNair research on inauthentic positive feedback to insecure partners, under the guidance of Assistant Professor Edward Lemay. The study builds on previous research and advances understanding of the psychological effects of authentic interpersonal relations.