GSO student to be inducted into AAC&U Future Leaders Society

December 22, 2021

Asta Habtemichael’s career path took an unexpected turn after completing his university entrance exam in his home country of Eritrea. With a score in the 95th percentile and a decision by the Eritrean Board for Higher Education to diversify top students beyond engineering and medicine, the government assigned the once-aspiring engineer to study marine science. Fortunately, he enjoyed the field and excelled in his studies, and now years later Habtemichael is being recognized as a future academic leader. 

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) selected Habtemichael, a Ph.D. student at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, for induction to its Future Leaders Society. Members of the Society are selected based upon their demonstrated commitments to equity, innovations in teaching and learning, and community engagement as integrated components of their graduate work.

“It is a great honor and privilege to be inducted into this prestigious society,” said Habtemichael. “To see my efforts being recognized and welcomed by a community is really motivating. I also understand being inducted into the society comes with a responsibility and commitment to work harder to advance educational leadership to foster equity and inclusion in higher education.”

Former URI Associate Professor of Biology Bryan Dewsbury and Professor of Oceanography Rainer Lohmann nominated Habtemichael for the AAC&U’s K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award to honor his leadership and community service roles, particularly in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives across campus. As a finalist for this award, Habtemichael was eligible for induction into the Future Leaders Society.

During his tenure as a lecturer and researcher at the College of Maine Science and Technology in Eritrea, Habtemichael’s research interests focused on environmental pollution and its impacts on communities. 

“During that time I witnessed the lack of meaningful translation of science in policy-making, which led to development and conservation projects that negatively impacted local communities,” said Habtemichael. “I vowed to be part of a change where scientists would be part of sound policy-making.”

Now at GSO, Habtemichael is working with Lohmann, his major professor, as he studies the interaction of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the lower trophic level of the marine food web. Recently Habtemichael completed his masters degree through URI’s Department of Marine Affairs, honoring his vow to better link science and policy. 

Habtemichael, who after completing his Ph.D. aspires to prevent and mitigate environmental pollution and related public health issues, is looking forward to accessing professional development, networking and mentorships through the Future Leaders Society. 

“I plan to take full advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow,” he said. “I envision bringing back and sharing the acquired knowledge and skills with my community at GSO.”