Melat Hagos, B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

December 31, 1969 |

Melat M. Hagos was born in Ethiopia, grew up in Kenya, and moved to the U.S. when she was 11 years old.

After arriving in the U.S., her family did not own a computer, but her mother took her to the local library every day so she could read and find information for homework. “This led me to love reading and kept me interested in school,” Melat says. “I was also lucky to go to a middle school and a high school where I was challenged and uplifted. I became involved in service and science organizations that helped me see the bigger picture of what I was learning and kept me engaged.”

While in high school – at Chamblee Charter High School, in Chamblee, Georgia – Melat visited Georgia Tech several times to participate in mentorship programs. During those visits, she realized how much she liked Tech. “I also wanted to stay close to home,” Melat says, “so Tech was top of my list.”

At Tech, Melat developed resilience. She has come a long way from the time she felt despair because of a bad grade. She is graduating with a B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and is headed for a job in wildlife conservation.

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
The importance of having a support system and asking for help.

When I first started struggling in my classes, I thought I should isolate myself so I can be more focused on the work. I learned the hard way that whatever the problem – whether academics or mental health –  what helped me most was reaching out even when I was embarrassed or felt vulnerable.

Georgia Tech met my expectations not only in its rigor but also in the expertise and prestige of its professors. 

What surprised you most at Georgia Tech?
How involved alumni are and how willing they are to help – they have been a great resource for me.

When I first enrolled, I was also surprised by how apathetic some students were about social and political issues. I’m glad to see more students using their voices to speak up.

I hope Tech continues to invest in collaborative opportunities that bring together different majors and in community engagement, such as the Serve-Learn-Sustain initiatives. These programs are rewarding. They show how we can use what we learn to have an impact even as students.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?
Bill Winders, an associate professor in Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, started me off on the right foot with his emphasis on remaining critical and inquisitive about accepted norms.

Kelly Comfort, also an associate professor in Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and faculty director of the Georgia Tech International House (I-House), made me feel at home with her warm spirit and personal stories.

Kim Cobb, one of my favorite professors in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the head of the research lab I worked in, has been an inspiration and a great example of how to be a kick-ass woman in academia and the public sphere.

Dana Hartley, my major advisor, has always been so kind and understanding with me and fellow friends. I’m thankful that students have her as a resource and liaison.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
Crying at the campanile after finding out I was going to fail a class.

I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. Now, I look back on moments like that with a laugh, because as sad as they were, they ultimately made me a better student and person.

What was the most valuable outcome of your participation in experiential learning activities?
One of the best decisions I made was to apply to live in I-House. As a ThinkBig community, I-House brings together Tech students and exchange students studying abroad at Tech.

Living in I-House helped me see Atlanta, Georgia Tech, and myself in a new light and expanded my perspective of other cultures. I made some amazing friends and now have people to visit all around the world.

I also did undergraduate research in Dr. Kim Cobb’s paleoclimate lab, using coral to reconstruct climate change. The undergraduate research experience made academia and research much less intimidating and helped me build relationships with graduate students in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?
Be patient with, and kind to, yourself. You’re going to grow a lot during your time here, so don’t let setbacks define your self-worth.

What would improve the Georgia Tech experience for future students?
I hope Tech continues to invest in collaborative opportunities that bring together different majors and in community engagement, such as the Serve-Learn-Sustain initiatives. These programs are rewarding. They show how we can use what we learn to have an impact even as students.

Where are you headed after graduation?
I will be working at WildArk, a wildlife conservation organization in Atlanta. Then I hope to attend graduate school to study environmental policy.

My time at Georgia Tech taught me to stay resilient, be a process-oriented problem solver, and seek out unlikely opportunities.