Haimy Assefa calls herself an accidental journalist and filmmaker. But, based on the accomplishments decorating her young career, accidental is nothing but contrary regarding the skill she brings to her trade.
Since graduating from Colorado State University in 2008, Assefa has worked for media giants including Fortune magazine, CNN and NBC. As a multimedia journalist, Assefa produces short, documentary-style films on a wide range of issues, often with a focus on global social issues, a theme that is a personal passion of hers.
“I am involved in every step of the storytelling process,” says Assefa. “From pitching original ideas, to traveling to film the story, to coming back to my desk editing the final product. It’s incredibly fulfilling.”
Her current profession is far from what she set out to do. Born in Ethiopia, Assefa and her family moved to the United States when she was 9 years old after her father, an entomologist, accepted a position with Oklahoma State University.
“Early in school, I thought I would go into medicine,” recalled Assefa. “My dad has his Ph.D. and is a scientist, and I love children, so I thought becoming a doctor made sense.”
Support from Key Communities
But she realized during her first semester at CSU that medicine was not the path for her. Unsure of her future, Assefa enrolled in different classes, including sociology courses, to help find her way. She also recalls leaning on her peers from CSU’s Key Communities program for support, as well.
Key Communities are diverse learning communities designed to assist first- and second-year students with their transition to, and through, the university. Key students live together in a designated residence hall and enroll in two or three first-semester courses with other Key students. Key students are also partnered with junior and senior Key Mentors who help guide students through the first year of college.
“My brother encouraged me to join Key while I was a senior in high school,” says Assefa. “He was almost relentless about it.”
Assefa credits her sociology classes and her experiences with Key Communities as instrumental in helping her articulate her passion for social issues and how that passion could be a solid foundation for her future.
Assefa stays connected to her Key Community friends and mentors to this day. It was her Key Community that she leaned on for encouragement when she set out for New York to pursue her master’s degree in international affairs and a career in storytelling. And she believes her experiences with Key contributes to her successful career.
When her younger brother was admitted to CSU, Assefa quickly passed on the favor she received from her brother and encouraged him to join Key.
“My brothers and I are all CSU and Key Communities alumni,” she said. “It’s a family tradition.”