Photo of Nagbe Nyenswah, CU Denver Alum, wearing a blue suit, standing in an office and posing in front of the camera

At The heart of CU Denver Business School is a diverse community comprised of people from different backgrounds and experiences. Many of those people are individuals who immigrated from their home country after facing many challenges. And they all have one thing in common—the tenacious determination to create a better future for themselves and their families.

Nagbe Nyenswah, MS ‘20, is one of them. Originating from Liberia (West Africa), a 1989 civil war disrupted his childhood and forced his family to relocate. From then on, the war and refugee experience shaped the rest of Nyenswah’s life, but with a steadfast commitment, he found salvation in education. His story is an inspiring narrative of resilience, faith, and relentless perseverance. Recently, the Business School sat down with him to delve into his remarkable journey, illuminating how education can open doors and lower barriers to success.

From Trauma to Triumph

The 1989 Liberian civil war plunged the nation into chaos and devastation. Approximately 200,000 people were killed, while others fled to neighboring countries. Nyenswah’s family were among the fortunate ones to find refuge. His family walked for three months from Liberia to the Ivory Coast, where they knew nobody and had to seek asylum at the UN refugee camp. The vivid images of violence and death would be forever engraved in his memory. Amid this traumatic experience, Nyenswah’s father taught his family that faith and education would help them conquer it all. This belief gave Nyenswah a reason to push through. Attending elementary and middle school in the Ivory Coast, he later returned to Liberia, where he continued the rest of his education and obtained a Master’s degree. “This experience humbled me, gave me humanity, and inspired me to persevere,” Nyenswah confided.

After getting some work experience in the oil and mining sector, Nyenswah was motivated to strengthen his skills in the industry. At the time, Liberia had started exporting oil. It instituted a national policy to give youth educational opportunities to play a meaningful role in oil exportation in the country. So, Nyenswah took advantage of this opportunity and received a scholarship to pursue a Master’s in Global Energy and Management (GEM) at CU Denver Business School.

Similar to when he first arrived in the Ivory Coast, he did not know anyone in the U.S. and had to start over. But as he shared, “This time, I had a refugee experience which gave me a foundation, strengthened me, and helped me adapt to life in the U.S.” He leaned into his religious community and the CU Denver community where he found a new home.

Using Education and Background to Do Good Business

Nyenswah reflected on his Business School experience and how his GEM degree helped him serve his country effectively. Before permanently moving to the U.S., he contributed to Liberia’s energy sector by working at the French energy giant, TOTAL, and later working for the government, where he was able to send several Liberians abroad to study in the energy sector. Nyenswah shared that the coursework in GEM has contributed to raising his awareness of environmental issues and developing a passion for the environment, climate change, and renewable energy. His awareness stirred his interest in pursuing a career in the environment and gave him the ambition to pursue a Ph.D. in the field. With Liberia containing one of the world’s largest rainforests, Nyenswah believes that advanced education in the field will help him preserve the country’s forests and contribute to attracting investors.

Lowering Barriers to Success

As he reminisces about his beginnings, Nyenswah wholeheartedly believes that his journey was guided by an unwavering faith in God and a reliance on education to overcome challenges. Like many other children who lived through the Liberian crisis, his entire childhood was disrupted by war, yet he was still able to get an education and pave his way to success. His conviction in the transformative power of education ultimately led him to seek permanent residency in the United States, where he knew that his children could have better educational opportunities without going through the long hurdles he had to face.

However, upon arriving in the U.S., Nyenswah encountered new obstacles, particularly in integrating into the workforce amidst the stiff competition and his unique background. Yet, fueled by perseverance, he persisted in applying for jobs, confident that his determination would eventually open doors. His efforts succeeded when he secured a position at one of the world’s largest law firms, a testament to his resilience and relentless belief in the promise of a better future.

Building a Sustainable Tomorrow: A Legacy of Perseverance

In reflecting on Nyenswah’s remarkable journey, one cannot overlook his extraordinary ability to persevere through adversity, from his tumultuous childhood marked by war to his current endeavors in pursuing solutions to global environmental challenges. His steadfast commitment to never giving up on his dreams and reliance on education and faith is a beacon of inspiration for all individuals facing their trials and tribulations. Nyenswah’s vision for a better world, exemplified by his aspirations to address climate change and environmental degradation, underscores the importance of sharing his story. He stated, “I would like to be remembered as one of those who helped to solve the world’s complex climate and environmental problems of today so that the ability of future generations to exist isn’t compromised. This includes supporting efforts to reduce emissions, protect the environment, and promote renewable energy. That’s why I have the goal of pursuing a Ph.D. and forming an organization that will focus on creating awareness of climate change, reducing emissions, and environmental protection,” stated Nyenswah.

“Never give up; there will always be challenges and setbacks, but stick to them.”

– Nagbe Nyenswah, MS’ 20

Through his experiences and words of wisdom, Nyenswah imparts a timeless piece of advice. In the face of challenges and setbacks, resilience and education are indispensable tools for navigating life’s complexities and achieving one’s aspirations. As he himself embodies, perseverance and a relentless pursuit of knowledge are virtues and essential pathways toward creating a brighter future for oneself and generations to come. “Never give up; there will always be challenges and setbacks, but stick to them.”

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