Truman Scholarship finalist Mesoud Awol '23 is making Las Vegas proud

Mesoud Awol '22Photo/Mesoud Awol

The Truman Scholarship, a prestigious $30,000 undergraduate award that chooses students across the country with an outstanding interest in public service, has selected Mesoud Awol ‘23 as a finalist.

Among 709 national applicants, only 189 are selected to be finalists in this competitive process. Awol will be participating in the Regional Review Panels in Phoenix on March 14, representing his home state of Nevada. While the process will take place virtually, he will have the opportunity to virtually meet and form connections with the other finalists, previous Truman scholars, and the scholarship committee of national experts.

For Awol, a business major, public service is an everyday dedication stemming from his love for his hometown, Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas is an interesting case study that most people don’t understand,” said Awol. “It’s marketed as the entertainment capital of the world. When I tell people I’m from Vegas they are shocked to learn that people actually live there.”

Awol, an Ethiopian-American, moved to Las Vegas at age six. He quickly developed a love for the desert and his diverse community. As he grew older, however, he realized the lack of diversity in the economy resulted in limited social welfare programs, inadequate public education, and inefficient infrastructure. This was the start of his passion for public service.

“I started imagining what the city could become. I knew it had the potential to support a thriving economy with affordable housing and diverse populations,” said Awol. “I wanted to start creating that future for my friends and family.”

This inspired Awol to start a non-profit organization, Diaspora Capital Partners, with his co-founders, Michael Haile and Jordanna Mersha. The organization aims to provide Black-diaspora small businesses with the capital and services to grow in the local economy. They help owners create websites, market themselves on social media, and expand their audience. “It felt like we were creating a non-profit out of thin air on our own, but we made it happen,” he said.

The Brandeis community was quick to support Awol’s non-profit. Professor Edward Jay Bayone, who Awol considers to be his campus mentor, was eager to help.

“I have known Mesoud for more than a year and am honored to be considered a mentor,” said Bayone. “He is that rare student who not only is brilliant, but also demonstrates an unusually high commitment to community and caring.”

The two met during one of Bayone’s courses. “Professor Bayone and I connected because we had similar childhood experiences and career interests,” said Awol. After learning about Awol’s non-profit work, Bayone decided to become a board member. “He’s someone I truly admire, so it means a lot to me that he’s an important part of Diaspora Capital Partners.”

Diaspora Capital Partners has already worked with two Las Vegas businesses, helping them grow their customer base within the community. The Java Tree, an Ethiopian family owned business, was the first to work with them.

“We created their website and social media accounts to get the word out,” said Awol. The team also helped The Java Tree strengthen their brand identity and customer reach for future years to come. Their results were undeniably impressive.  “Within two weeks their Google profile views grew 89%,” said Awol.

Upon graduating from Brandeis, Awol hopes to continue developing his non-profit organization while receiving his MBA and MPA. Above all, he plans to continue to diversify the Las Vegas economy.

Winning the Truman Scholarship would help Awol support his future plans, but he believes the connections he’s made during this process will help his future regardless. “I am so thankful for the network of people I have met through this scholarship process,” said Awol. “I can confidently say I have a concrete support system.”

He also contributes his future-focused mindset to the scholarship program. “During the application process we had to ask ourselves what we wanted our future to be,” said Awol. “I always knew I wanted to continue my education, but this really kick-started my future plans. It showed me what I truly value in life.”

The Brandeis Academic Fellowships office supports students in applying for a variety of prestigious opportunities like the Truman Scholarship.


Categories: Business, General, Humanities and Social Sciences, Student Life

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