From Village to City, Frehiwot Wuhib G’17 Has Experienced the Enduring Power of Mentorship

Frehiwot Wuhib G’17 credits her parents as her first mentors. “They are the ones who implanted courage in the value of hardship and belief in myself,” she says, noting access to quality education was their priority. Her parents strongly believed the only way out of poverty was to exceed in education.

Frehiwot Wuhib and Tewodros Zewde
Teaching and Curriculum Ph.D. graduate Frehiwot Wuhib G’17 and her husband, Tewodros Zewde G’17.

They’d remind her and her siblings: “We don’t have anything to inherit for you, except education,” she recalls.

Growing up in a small village in Ethiopia, Wuhib’s life centered around education, as well as supporting others in her tight-knit community. Over summers, older students provided tutoring at a nearby center, where, by age 12, Wuhib took on the role, helping youngsters in the village struggling in math or science. “The younger kids saw me as a role model,” she says.

Mentors helped her, and in turn, Wuhib is proud that she could contribute to the growth of younger students who looked up to her. She continues her mentoring vocation to this day, recently with a young winner of a 2024 Syracuse University Unsung Hero award.

“I believe that I am a result of my community. The saying is true,” she says with a little laugh. “It takes a village.”

New Community

In high school and into higher education—Bahir Dar and Addis Ababa universities for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees—Wuhib’s teachers served as vital mentors.

“I believe in the importance of mentorship, both in personal development and setting academic goals.”

“I believe in the importance of mentorship, both in personal development and setting academic goals,” Wuhib says. During her time taking a doctorate in Teaching and Curriculum at Syracuse University, she found guidance that went beyond the typical expectations of academic support, networking, and character development.

She found a new community.

Frehiwot Wuhib and family members
Beyond her doctoral studies, Frehiwot Wuhib G’17 (middle) has helped other Ethiopian and Eritrean families adjust to live in the United States.

Wuhib arrived in Syracuse in 2011 with her husband, electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. graduate Tewodros Zewde G’17 (both now work at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ).

The couple found the University and city welcoming. “We were surrounded by a very supportive community, both on campus and off campus,” Wuhib says. “I consider Syracuse like my hometown,” and, she adds, for her two oldest children, Syracuse is home, as both were born and started school in the city.

For six years, the School of Education (SOE), SU’s international students, and the wider community nurtured her and her family, both personally and academically. The support from her advisor, Professor Sharon Dotger—who serves as SOE’s Faculty Director for Teacher Education and Undergraduate Studieswas immense, she says.

Unique Quality

Their relationship extended beyond the confines of academia. Wuhib credits Dotger’s advice and personal experience with helping her complete dissertation chapters while also having her second child.

“Syracuse University has opened so many doors for me, not only in my career but in my friendships.”

“Professor Dotger made it easier for me to be a mother and a scholar at the same time,” says Wuhib, because Dotger shared her own challenges of being a new mom when joining the SOE as a tenure-track professor. “She possesses a unique quality that makes her support invaluable for me.”

Beyond campus, Wuhib and her husband also found kinship among Syracuse’s Ethiopian diaspora, especially with members of the St. Arsema Ethiopian Orthodox Tewhdo Church in Baldwinsville, outside the city.

“That was our refuge,” Wuhib says of the church, where she volunteered and led Sunday school. “Many immigrant families from Ethiopia and Eritrea needed a lot of help, especially with their children being new to the education system.” She also made time to sit and listen. “I wanted them to understand that they’re not alone,” she says. “They can always call us.”

Great Feeling

Frehiwot Wuhib and Elbethel Berhane
Frehiwot Wuhib G’17 and her young mentee Elbethel Berhane, who won a 2024 Syracuse University Unsung Hero.

One young student, whose family Wuhib remains close with, is Elbethel Berhane. She was named a 2024 Syracuse University Unsung Hero along with Wuhib’s doctoral mentor, Professor Dotger.

Dotger received faculty recognition for her work in redesigning SOE’s teacher education program to ensure future teachers are equipped with the necessary skills and compassion to thrive. Berhane, currently a senior at Jamesville-DeWitt (NY) High School, was recognized for continued community service to her peers and community.

“When I first met Berhane, she was a kindergartener, just five years old in my Sunday school class,” Wuhib recalls. Now, Berhane is one of her church’s Sunday school mentors, leading the weekly class for a new generation. “Since then, I’ve gotten to see the changes in her growth and maturity … the topics she discusses and hearing her life philosophies—she’s really become so mature.”

Wuhib learned about Berhane’s and Dotger’s Unsung Hero awards via a University Facebook post. “It was a great feeling seeing two faces from my time at SU honored,” says Wuhib, who immediately wanted to contact Berhane’s family. “I thought it’s too late to call, but I have to at least send a message.”

She shared how proud she was of their daughter and told them: “This is only the beginning of the very many successes waiting for her.”

For Wuhib, other highlights while at SU include serving as both a Graduate Teaching Mentor and Program Assistant for three summers with the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI). She also was chosen as a Spector/Warren Fellow for Holocaust and Human Rights Education, a program run by SOE. She credits all these experiences with expanding her connections beyond the School and remains in close contact with many she’s met over the years.

“Each of these experiences has extended my perspectives in terms of social dilemmas and social justice,” she says. “Syracuse University has opened so many doors for me, not only in my career but in my friendships.”

By Ashley Kang ’04, G’11 (a proud alumna of the M.S. in Higher Education program)

Learn more about the Ph.D. program in Teaching and Curriculum or contact Professor Benjamin Dotger at