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Bertha Nibigira
February 22, 2023

Berry alum embraces peacebuilding and empowering international youth

Bertha Nibigira ’18, who majored in sociology and anthropology, graduated with a Master of Arts from American University’s School of International Service, with an emphasis on international development,  peacebuilding and youth empowerment. Her perspective on international issues began early in life, as her family fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Tanzania and eventually resettled in the United States.   

In high school, Nibigira discovered Berry after connecting with Associate Professor of Teacher Education Eliana Hirano, a dedicated mentor throughout her undergraduate career. As a four-year Bonner Scholarship recipient, Nibigira took advantage of opportunities to serve locally and internationally. Her most impactful experience was a stint with an international nonprofit.  

“I worked as a refugee camp operations specialist, where I helped refugees and asylum seekers in Paris with hospital and immigration appointments, while also helping them navigate the transportation system,” she recalls. “I worked mostly with minors. In that role, I expanded my knowledge pertaining to the global refugee crisis. … Their stories stuck with me, reminding me of my own experiences as a refugee — sparking a fierce desire to get to the root cause of displaced people’s shared suffering.”  

From there, Nibigira was determined to entrust her life to the work of helping end conflict and building peace around the globe. Her capstone project at Berry centered on the resettled refugee youth education experience, which informed her decision to pursue a master’s at American University. “It helped me realize that I care deeply about the youth population, and I want to pursue a career that will enable me to empower youth and engage them in peacebuilding processes and development efforts,” she says.  

Eliana Hirano says Nibigira’s resilience, open-mindedness and hard work will make a difference in the world: “Bertha was successful at Berry because of her strong will to persevere and overcome, which she has been doing her whole life, but also because of mentors that offered her support along the way. It fills me with pride and joy that she completed a master's in international development, which I think is a wonderful fit for her, opening doors to the kind of work she is passionate about: mediating international relations. ... I am so glad that Berry was her home for four years.” 


Story by Sophomore Amani Pyron

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