Long before Fidelie Nawej came to the United States from the Republic of Congo, she began dedicating her life to helping others in need.
“I have the love for that kind of work,” she said. “I am planning to go back home and start a project to support vulnerable people.
She worked to help women with fistulas get free reconstructive surgery; she hopes to return to that type of work in the future.
Nawej is completing the first step to reach that goal, as she will graduate from the online Master of Science in Organizational Leadership program at Eastern Washington University (EWU) in August 2022. She also holds a master’s degree in peace, leadership and governance from Africa University.
“Due to the fact that my first degree was from Africa, I have experienced a lot of unnecessary questioning and discrimination,” she said. “That’s why I decided to go back to school and earn a graduate-level degree in my discipline in this country.”
As a full-time resettlement specialist in Seattle, Nawej needed the flexibility of a fully online program to make earning a second advanced degree realistic.
“Online learning is a great advantage,” she said. “The M.S. in Organizational Leadership program attracted me to EWU. I liked the flexibility. I could also fit the schoolwork around my job schedule.
“It made my work more effective without having to worry about commuting to in-person classes. The affordability also attracted me.”
Off She Goes
Nawej moved to the United States in 2016 because of security concerns in her home country, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Africa University eight years earlier. She worked as a senior program coordinator for three-and-a-half years.
“In my daily work now, I supervise programs to support refugees and immigrants with different resources to be self-sufficient in this country,” she said. “There’s no other field that has ever brought me the same level of fulfillment and satisfaction as the social work that I do.
“I have been wanting to do more and move to higher positions in these organizations to get more professional exposure and experiences with new opportunities and new challenges for my career.”
Since enrolling at EWU in September 2021, Nawej has seen her knowledge and perspective enhance with each course in the curriculum.
“So far, everything is amazing,” she said. “When I started this program, I thought because I already have a master’s degree in leadership that it would be similar. This is another level of learning, which I apply to my current work.
“I have learned a lot about communication and empathy. You need empathy with the kind of work that I do; I didn’t know that it’s something you can practice. It’s like a muscle — if you don’t practice, it’s not going to work.”
Nawej also enjoys the interaction with her classmates in the online M.S. in Organizational Leadership program.
“I like listening to other people with the intent of understanding and supporting what they’re saying,” she said. “It’s been a great learning experience for me.
“We work as a team, but we’re just a group of people working together. I have been exposed to this type of learning and applied it my work at the same time.”
Given to Fly
Once Nawej graduates from the online master’s degree program in August of 2022, she will formulate a plan to return home to her family and friends in order to work toward realizing her dream.
“They are excited and supportive of me,” she said. “I would really love to walk at graduation because it’s a great achievement for an African woman.
“I have been empowered with skills, and I am better equipped to achieve my career goal. I plan to continue improving myself and step into what I want to do in my country. It’s my passion to support people.”
Nawej, who enjoys traveling and hiking in her free time, believes that she made the right choice when she enrolled in EWU.
“If you want to become a good leader and don’t know where to start, Eastern Washington is a good place to train,” she said. “This M.S. in Organizational Leadership program can assist you to develop new leadership skills to support you in your personal and professional development.
“I believe this program provided me with a good opportunity to connect and learn from other leaders and network. I also gained a lot of confidence to succeed as a leader and made a good friend through this program. It is working out very well for me.”
Learn more about EWU’s online M.S. in Organizational Leadership program.