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Thunderbird grad aims to empower refugee community in Arizona


Alenga Alokola sitting in a chair at a desk with arms folded, looking at the camera.

Alenga Alokola, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will graduate from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

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May 12, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

After 20 years living in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania, Alenga Alokola and his family relocated to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life. In 2020, Alokola completed his bachelor’s degree in global management from ASU’s West campus, and this May, Alokola will graduate with a Master in Global Management with a concentration in global affairs from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Now, Alokola is committed to helping others who share similar backgrounds through his work as CEO of Mwangaza Wa Upendoa, a nonprofit organization that empowers the refugee community in Arizona.

"I'm working on creating educational resources for new refugees to help them navigate the most common challenges faced when first arriving in the United States. My passion is to empower the refugee community to discover and release their potential for a better world and for a better life," he said.

Here's more about what Alokola had to say about his journey and work.

Question: In what ways do you think your relocation to the U.S. made you a stronger person?

Answer: My relocation to the U.S. made me a stronger person through the high standards of schooling, the country’s economic strength, the amount of opportunities here, the relative safety from where I grew up, friendly and outgoing people, and the diversity.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: The size of the school. ASU has more than 1,000 clubs; there are students from all over the world, which gives ASU a global perspective. ASU has a lot of resources, strong innovation and technology.

Q: Who inspired you most during your time at ASU?

A: Pamela DeLargy inspired me the most during my time at ASU because she dedicated her time to give me advice and connect me with the right resources as a refugee student. Also, her work history inspired me to study global affairs.

Q: What do you plan to do after graduation?

A: I’m looking into a PhD and getting a job as well as working on my nonprofit organization Mwangaza Wa Upendo, and fighting for others' desires, rights and beliefs.

Q: What do you hope to achieve in the next 10 years?

A: Getting a PhD, working with an international, continuing to add value to my community by being a mentor, running my business professionally, being my own boss and by transforming chaos into beauty for a better world.

Q: What do you think may help your dreams come true?

A: Having a smart plan, the right resources, being a good listener, seeing challenges as opportunities rather than problems, using my support system effectively and efficiently.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school?

A: Make sure you have a dream and write it on a paper — if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Seek the right advice and have the right mentor. Keep remembering your "why" — the reason for what you are doing, and visualize your future as well as develop your skill sets. Also, be humble.

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