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Akol Aguek ’05, G’11

Master’s student in international affairs and social policy, Harvard

Akol Aguek

Akol Aguek ’05 G’11 was one of  Sudan’s “Lost Boys,” a generation of young men displaced by brutality and civil war in their homeland. Aguek described the experience of being one of thousands fleeing across forest, desert, and river. “You are running for your life!”

When Aguek came to Burlington, part of an asylum effort that brought 3,800 Sudanese to the United States in 2001, continuing his education was top priority. Aguek’s host, George Ewins ’55, encouraged him to look no further than his own alma mater.

After a year working in the stockroom at the local Sears store, Aguek enrolled and, a freshman at age twenty-five, moved into UVM’s Living and Learning Center. “I got involved, I enjoyed every bit of student life, I loved what I wanted to do,” Aguek says.

Thoughts of Sudan

From the time he arrived on U.S. soil, helping his homeland and fellow refugees has been a priority for Aguek. Portions of those first precious paychecks from Sears Roebuck Corp. were sent back to support Sudanese still in the refugee camps.

After receiving his degree, Aguek worked in the UVM Admissions office with new refugees on college preparation through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. He's now pursuing the next phase of his education: Aguek, his wife, and their young son Bior are now in Boston while he pursues a master’s in international affairs and social policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“Over the long run I may eventually go back to Sudan,” Aguek says. “Not that I would pack all of my belongings and leave, I will always have my roots in Vermont. I feel that sitting on the sidelines and seeing the government of South Sudan dysfunctional is not a good thing. I think going back and making a difference in terms of providing opportunities for needy people, education, healthcare, infrastructure, economic opportunities might be one of the areas I may be involved in.”