Meet Afternoon Spring Commencement Speaker Nardos Ashenafi

Portrait of Nardos

Boise State is proud to present Nardos Ayele Ashenafi as one of two Boise State University spring 2019 commencement speakers. Ashenafi graduates summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering.

Ashenafi’s academic career, as well as her creative, extra-curricular and service activities, paint a portrait of an individual whose curiosity and drive to innovate knows no bounds. Since enrolling at Boise State in 2015 from her home country of Ethiopia, Ashenafi succeeded in converting X-rays of knee joints into 3D models in order to discern what physiological features make patients prone to patella dislocation. She also worked in the Robot Control Laboratory to develop algorithms enabling robots to complete specialized tasks, and built air-hockey-playing robots as a senior design project.

“My biggest achievement at Boise State is becoming the responsible, risk-taking adult I am today,” said Ashenafi. “Coming to the U.S. was an expensive decision and I knew it would be my full responsibility to pay for my education and keep my grades high. With Boise State’s support, I quickly and rather smoothly learned the value of taking responsibility for my choices.”

Ashenafi was inspired during her childhood by the Ethiopian economist Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a woman who was determined to improve the lives of her people. She helped create the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), which brought international trade opportunity and security for Ethiopian farmers.

Ashenafi worked countless hours, juggling a full course load and three different jobs to afford rent, health insurance and tuition that remained after scholarships were applied. As an academic, Ashenafi has worked as a researcher, a learning assistant, a mentor and a peer educator to Krishna Pakala, a clinical associate professor in the College of Engineering.

“I have personal experience of Nardos’ academic prowess and would rate her as one of the top three out of the thousands of students I have encountered in my entire teaching/mentoring experience,” said Pakala.

Ashenafi’s volunteerism has led her both to serve as a role model and teacher for young Ethiopian girls, and work with Idaho Power to find areas in which local companies can improve energy use, waste disposal, recycling and water use. With the Boise Parks and Recreation Center, Ashenafi designed and built a bench to help transfer people with disabilities from a wheelchair to a handcycle. She also worked with the Society of Women Engineers to modify toy cars and create a mode of transportation for children with Cerebral Palsy.

“Service is part of Nardos’ DNA,” said Pakala.

In 2016, Ashenafi was awarded a prestigious Boise State Foundation Scholarship. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. Recently, Ashenafi earned her Engineer in Training (EIT) certificate, which will enable her to obtain a professional engineering license. Upon graduation, she intends to remain at Boise State to pursue her doctorate in electrical and computer engineering.