Lalissie Eteffa first became passionate about volunteerism and mentoring as a way to pass on the kindness, love and advice others have given to her.
“I feel like I’ve got to do that for somebody else because I know how much that meant to me,” she said. “Even the smallest things can make someone’s day.”
A senior at Goucher College, Eteffa got involved in the school’s community early on and has taken on several leadership roles. Some of those positions include president of the Black Student Union for three years and leadership roles in the Goucher Women of Color Coalition, the Student Engagement Team, Model UN, the Futuro Latino Learning Center and the First-Year Mentor Team.
“There are not that many spaces for people that look like me so going toward clubs with students that felt the same especially with a lot of upperclassmen made me want to help and keep those spaces alive,” she said. “I know how much it meant to me when I came to Goucher that there were other upperclassmen that looked like me and said ‘I remember ex- actly being like you when I came here. Here is some advice. Here are some things I learned.’ … Remembering how I felt, I also wanted to be that person for someone else. I knew how much that made my experience better as a first year and a sophomore.”
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Eteffa got involved with her high school’s Black Student Union and Females Achieving Maintaining Excellence (FAME) co-run by the National Council of Negro Women. The experience helped her find a love of volunteering as well as being in a community of people that she could learn from outside of classroom.
A first-generation college student, Eteffa took time to adjust to the higher education setting her freshman year but started getting involved the next year.
“I just told myself the only way I am going to make this college experience worth is to try things,” she said.
During her time at Goucher, she has served on several college groups including search committees, college-wide initiatives and the Strategic Planning Committee. For the latter role, she was one of three students and the only student of color working with alumni, trustees, faculty and senior administration staff.
For Eteffa’s outstanding efforts in academics, mentorship and leadership, she was named the recipient of The Maryland Daily Record’s Top 100 Women Circle of Excellence Schol-arship and Award. The scholarship is chosen by the Circle of Excellence inductees.
Eteffa believes it is important to celebrate women’s achievements because many are doing so much in communities and sometimes feel unseen. The Top 100 Women event is “high-lighting women who have gone above and beyond,” she said. “Hopefully I will encourage other girls to dream as much as they want to.”
An international relations major, Eteffa studied abroad in spring 2020 with the Hansard Society Scholars in association with the London School of Economics and Political Science before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the experience early.
She was first drawn to the field because she has two relatives who worked for the United Nations.
“I remember I would ask them stories when I was a kid,” she said. “I didn’t know what International Relations was at the time. I just knew they traveled. They got to meet people and that intrigued me. I also really loved history in high school especially world history. I think just because most of my education was focused on the United States. I always had this feeling of ‘What is going on in the world?’ That mainly came from the fact that my parents and I are Ethiopian. I was always encouraged to know what is going on beyond Maryland and beyond the U.S.”
After graduating in May, Eteffa plans to get some work experience before going to grad- uate school. She wants to make sure whatever she does has a purpose.
“I never want to be in a field or be in a role just for the sake that it looks good,” she said. “I want to know that it is actually helping people just like the roles I did at Goucher.”