Aklilu Mulat (’85) grew up in Ethiopia and had no plans to ever leave. He loved his country and desired to be a leader for his people, just like his father. But Dr. Robert N. Thompson—a professor of Political Science at Trinity Western and former Deputy Minister of Education in Ethiopia—saw opportunities for Mulat to be further educated in North America.
“Dr. Thompson was visiting Ethiopia when I was around 11 years old,” Mulat says. “He happened to be my father’s mentor and was like family to us. He told me that I should communicate with him when I finished high school and that he’d like to me study at a Christian school in Canada.”
This idea seemed impossible at the time, and Mulat didn’t give it much thought. But two years after that visit, Ethiopia became communist and things changed dramatically for him and his family.
Ethiopia and The Red Terror
“My high school years were a very traumatic time,” says Mulat. “We underwent the Red Terror, similar to what Stalin carried out in Russia and the Soviet Union.”
Many Ethiopians decided to leave at that time. Mulat talked at length with his family about what he should do. Ultimately, they decided it would be best for him to leave and to attend Trinity Western. Mulat heard of other Ethiopians who had gone there as well and had spoken of the kind of quality education they received.
“My desire has always been to have some impact in society. I didn’t know what form that take, but Trinity Western seemed to offer that opportunity,” Mulat says.
He began corresponding with Thompson to work out details, and before long, he was boarding a plane for Canada.
A New Life in Canada
Mulat studied at Trinity Western for 5 and a half years. In that time, he earned a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. It was a great experience for him, but it always felt bittersweet, as he never wanted to leave Ethiopia in the first place. He says the saddest day in his life was the day he left his country.
“I wanted to be engaged in all of the things my father was doing at the time. He had done lots of work in public health, entrepreneurship, church leadership, and community development,” says Mulat. “I wanted to be part of that and get my education in my country, but those options were actually closed. When I left, my hope was always to go back and help.”
But as it turned out, many wonderful opportunities became available in Canada, and Mulat ended up loving this new country almost as much as his own.
A Focus on Personal Development and Mentorship
“For myself, being at TWU was quite an interesting experience, because when I joined, the overwhelmingly expressed model was total personal development,” says Mulat. “Development spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. I probably had a fairly poor appreciation for that at the time, but I realized the advantages I gained much later in my life.”
This focus on personal development left a deep impact on Mulat and influenced the career path he took after graduation. For twenty years, Mulat served as a corporate leader for non-profits and worked in the private sector. A lot of his career was focused on things like community development work and things that would help Ethiopia and Africa in general.
“That was always my interest and calling,” says Mulat.
Today, Mulat works at Trinity Western as the Senior Vice President of Business Administration and Chief Financial Officer and is thrilled be back serving the next generation of students on the campus he loves.
“Coming back here now, I kind of feel like many of the experiences that I’ve had, the training and education I’ve undergone, have all converged to equip me to be effective,” says Mulat.
When looking back, Mulat recognizes he’s had quite the journey. And even though things didn’t go exactly as he originally envisioned when he was young, he is thankful for the influence of men like his father and Dr. Robert N. Thompson, who modeled godly leadership at a time when he needed it most. Now that he is older and a leader himself, he does his best to mentor others.
“My goal in life was making changes in society,” says Mulat. “That became refined as I got older, to making a difference in people’s lives. I feel that training students here at Trinity Western is part of that transformational work for the world. Because the world has become highly globalized. We are a global village, and what you do in one spot has a ripple effect.”