When it came to picking a college, Renoel Amogawin says UMass Lowell was an “obvious choice:” He wanted to earn a degree in criminal justice with a concentration in homeland security so he could pursue a job as an immigration investigator with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

He will graduate with much more this spring. Thanks to his passion for community service, work on a faculty research project and an Introduction to Sociology class that ignited a desire to learn more about other cultures, he has gained a 360-degree view of the immigrant experience, from displacement to encounters with law enforcement. 

“Sociology piqued my interest sophomore year and I just ran with it,” says Amogawin, who decided to minor in that subject. 

Amogawin sought experiences outside the classroom, too, volunteering to tutor international students in English his sophomore year. 

“They could write a paper in English, but they couldn’t have a conversation, so we were helping them start a conversation,” he says. 

Last spring, he took Lecturer Susan Thomson Tripathy’s Community Service class. She placed him with the International Institute of New England in Lowell, where he tutored refugee children in math and coached high school seniors on how to apply to college. This past fall, Amogawin continued at the International Institute as an intern in the youth program, where he tutored newly arrived children in English and helped their parents enroll them in school. Many of the refugees he worked with came from Congo or Iraq. 

“Learning about what they go through, their experiences in the camps and the whole process of how they get resettled, helped give me skills and augmented my knowledge of what I want to do,” he says. “I learned that they speak little to no English and that their traditions or customs may be different or not considered appropriate here.” 

He has also honed his analytic skills by working on a domestic terrorism research project with Neil Shortland, program manager for the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies. After earning a bachelor’s degree in 2016, Amogawin plans to complete an accelerated, one-year master’s degree program in security studies with a homeland defense concentration. 

“All this experiential learning at UMass Lowell is helping me prepare for my career,” he says. “It gives me real-world experience, which is an advantage.” 

He’s having fun, too. In the summers, he works as a strength conditioning coach at a camp in Maine; on campus, he competes with the club track and field team or lifts weights at the rec center with his friends. He also has a passion for cool sneakers. 

“I like to work out at the gym. That’s my stress therapy,” he says. “That, and collecting sneakers.”