Miata Getaweh ’07 Receives 4 Under 40 Achievement Award

Miata Getaweh used her personal experience to shape her postgraduate research and become a change-maker for other African immigrants looking to build careers in the United States.

By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08 GS’16, contributing writer

August 31, 2023 | 1:30 p.m.

Miata Getaweh ’07

Miata Getaweh ’07

“This is me! This is exactly what I want to do!” Miata Getaweh ’07 remembers thinking as she paged through the Bethel catalog as a new student.

She remembers where she was sitting: a comfy chair outside the University Library. And she remembers her future coming into focus as she read about courses in the Business: Human Resource Management major and made plans for her college years.

Getaweh and her family had recently immigrated from Liberia, applying for political asylum in the United States—in the wake of a decades-long civil war—and choosing to make a home in Minnesota to be near family. They quickly got connected in the sizable Liberian population in the Twin Cities, and Getaweh’s first experience at Bethel was attending a naturalization ceremony for a cousin in Benson Great Hall. 

There were things that went smoothly with their transition to a new country: they rapidly found Liberian friends, a church, and even a grocery store. Getaweh and her siblings enrolled in school immediately, and Bethel became a natural college choice given her Baptist upbringing. But there were a few things about their experience that were bumpier. 

One, the January cold was a brutal eye-opener after growing up in the African climate and traveling through sweltering Ghana. And her father, despite coming to the United States years earlier and holding a Ph.D. from Boston University, struggled to find a job that matched the caliber of his training and experience. There was a vicious cycle: he’d take a temporary job in order to provide for his family, and then short tenures would count against him to more fitting employers looking for longevity and consistency in his employment history. He didn’t know the system, and much of his professional network was at home in Liberia. She didn’t know it at the time, but that experience would shape her perspective on the field of human resources and her academic and professional trajectory.

Getaweh quickly found a home on Bethel’s campus, making close friends she remains in contact with today. She tried sledding for the first time, loved going to Chapel and Vespers, and got involved with Twin Cities Outreach—where she won a Servant Leadership Award—and United Cultures of Bethel. She did an internship in Bethel’s office of human resources, and began working as a tax site manager at the nonprofit AccountAbility Minnesota—now Prepare + Prosper. At the urging of her friend and mentor Professor of Business Leo Gabriel, Getaweh declared a second emphasis in accounting to broaden her business expertise—and a minor in reconciliation studies.

“Being new to the United States, it was important for me to learn about history. And, as a Black woman, to discover the stories of the ‘giants’ whose shoulders we’re standing on,” Getaweh says. “In my courses, I became more of a thinker. I had to really apply my faith. Having a liberal arts education—and grappling with different viewpoints—made me a better researcher and has served me well.”

Following graduation from Bethel, Getaweh completed a Master of Arts in Human Resource Management and Services from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She became a human resource manager, and visiting family in Liberia inspired her to try teaching in a college there. She fell in love with the connections she was making with students, and the academic side of her discipline. When she returned to the United States two years later, she immediately began teaching human resources as an adjunct instructor—and pursuing her Doctor of Business Administration—back at Saint Mary’s. 

When it was time to complete her dissertation, Getaweh noticed the sheer lack of research focused on the professional inequities that African immigrants face and how they might achieve managerial success. She thought back to her own family’s experience—and how her father’s skills and experience had been so devalued in the marketplace—and channeled that perspective into her research.

“In HR, you have to be consistent! I’m going to be fair and look through the lens of equity, justice, and fairness–consistently applying policy across the organization and bringing about change. But, I thought, ‘I can be more. I can do more for my community. And I hope that in ten years, other immigrants won’t have to experience what we went through.”

— Miata Getaweh ’07

“I wanted to do qualitative research, so I started finding others with a similar experience,” she explains. Along the way, she realized that she could play a role in creating space and a professional support network for immigrants like the ones she was meeting. Getaweh’s career accelerated quickly from there, and today, she is Vice President of Human Resources at Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Minnesota. She’s also co-founder of the nonprofit African Immigrant Professional Development Conference (AIPDC), which brings together a diverse lineup of prominent speakers and resources for African immigrants to enhance their professional skills and networks. 

"Dr. Getaweh has beaten the odds against her as an immigrant from Liberia by completing several degrees, including a doctorate degree in strategic management, and consistently progressing in her career as a human resource professional," says Professor of Business Leo Gabriel, who nominated Getaweh for this award. "She lives her Christian values and has shown herself to be a world-changer by empowering recent African immigrants to develop themselves and be successful in the United States."

Getaweh has realized that both in her full-time position, and in her nonprofit connections, policy and laws matter. She’s a proponent of equity and consistency in leadership decisions, and has helped LSS take a most holistic approach to structuring employee benefits and fostering employee retention. But she also believes in taking an individual approach, utilizing her connections to help those without them to “get a foot in the door” with prospective employers. Once they’re in, she says, their skills and experiences speak for themselves. 

Nominate the next 4 Under 40 recipients!

Bethel University’s National Alumni Board annually seeks and accepts nominations for the 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Award. The selection is made from Bethel University graduates 40 years of age or younger who have had outstanding achievements in their career, public service, or volunteer activities.

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