The Ministry of Science and Higher Education appointed Professor Fetien Abay, a tenured professor in plant breeding and seed, as an interim president of Mekelle University, making her the only woman in Ethiopia currently leading a public university.
The appointment saw the replacement of the recently retired long-serving president of the university, Kindeya Gebrehiwot.
Born in Wukro, in the eastern Tigray Regional State, Fetien began her academic career with receiving her diploma from Hawassa College of Agriculture. She then earned her bachelor’s from Haramaya University in Plant Science.
After serving as a researcher at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Fetien joined the newly established Mekelle University in 1993, becoming the university’s first female lecturer.
Continuing her study, she earned her Master’s in Rural Resource Management from the University of Wales (Bangor) in 1995 and later on a Ph.D. in Plant and Seed Sciences from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in 2007.
Fetien has long been setting precedents before her latest appointment. She is also the third female professor of the country and the first woman in Ethiopia who has reached the professor’s rank in Plant Breeding and Seed.
Before taking over the new presidency role, Fetien served as the director of the Institute of Environment, Gender, and Development Studies (IEGDS) at Mekelle University.
The professor has also published more than 45 peer-reviewed publications that integrated smallholder farmers’ knowledge.
Mekelle University is one of the largest public universities with a student intake capacity between 31,000 to 34,000 students. The university has seven colleges, eight institutes, and more than 90 undergraduate and 70 postgraduate programs.