Annie La Fortune Soup Koagne came to UMass Lowell as a top graduate of Worcester Technical High School, where she’d excelled in culinary arts and also started a youth civics organization to bring young voices into city politics.
Soup Koagne had been admitted into UML’s competitive nursing program. She’d been offered a good financial aid package. She also received a $4,000 Immersive Scholarship to do research with a faculty member or study abroad.
“I got the Immersive Scholarship, and I got accepted into the nursing program, and my advisor in high school said, ‘Oh my God, just go, go, go!’” she says.
Yet her first year on campus, Soup Koagne struggled. She was taking more advanced science and nursing classes than most of her peers because she had already taken some college classes during high school, through dual enrollment. Soon, she was going to the tutoring center every day and stressing over every exam, as nursing students must earn high grades to stay in the major.
A first-generation college student, Soup Koagne also had trouble with a loan. Advisor Shontae Praileau connected her with River Hawk Rising, a support program in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Soup Koagne quickly turned things around.
“I needed to make Lowell that ideal place for me,” she says.
She did that by joining clubs where she could find a community and help build that community, including the Black Student Union and the Association of Students of African Origin (ASAO), for which she’s the events coordinator.
She also took advantage of opportunities in health sciences, including volunteering at a hospital. Soup Koagne decided that she wasn’t sold on being a nurse, so an advisor in her college access program, Bottom Line, suggested that she try public health. Once she began to see what she could do in the field, she was all in.
“There are a lot of things that I want to fix about injustice in health care,” she says. “I want to make sure people have access to health care; I want to make sure people are getting the right treatment.”
With her Immersive Scholarship, Soup Koagne did research her sophomore year with Assoc. Prof. of Nursing Yuan Zhang and the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW). Her presentation on yoga as an intervention to prevent burnout among nurses won her finalist status in the 2020 Student Research and Community Engagement Symposium.
She added a minor in marketing to her studies; she works in her mother’s salon, where she sells her own line of hair and skin care products. She joined the Tribe Academy, a professional mentoring program for college students of color in business and STEM fields, and took part in the Health Career Connection program. She worked during summer 2020 for a health care executive recruiting firm.
She’s on track to graduate a semester early, and she’s already taking graduate classes to start on a Master of Public Health degree in health care management, which combines public health and business courses with practical experience.
“I want to open a clinic, either here or in my country,” says Soup Koagne, whose family emigrated from Cameroon when she was 8 years old. “I want to make sure I’m helping as many people everywhere as I can.”
She continues to be active on campus, using her marketing skills to help MassPIRG get students registered to vote and working with the Black Leadership Advisory Council to advocate for diversity and inclusion efforts.
“I want to make Lowell academically and socially a better place,” she says. “I want to leave my mark. I don’t just want to say I went to Lowell: I want to say I was a part of Lowell.”