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Olivia Soule (BA 2020)

Olivia Soule is passionate about health and development issues at home and around the world. She is also fascinated in languages, most notably French. The St. Louis native is acutely interested in the public health challenges facing the people of Senegal, the former French colony where French remains the official language. She first traveled to the capital city of Dakar in 2017 as part of a 10-week study abroad program that she would extend to more than a year through a subsequent internship, taking a year off from her pre-med and French studies at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.

"By the fourth week of the program I was really enjoying myself," Olivia told UMSL Daily in a 2019 interview. "Ten weeks wasn’t enough because I just really felt comfortable in Dakar and wanted to learn more."

The experience, which was her first introduction to public health, prompted Olivia to rethink her academic pursuits. After returning to the United States, she transferred from Lawrence to University of Missouri–St. Louis to pursue a degree in sociology.

Olivia Soule

“Through my internship, I became more interested in working in a field where I could make a difference on a macro level rather than focusing on individual patients.” 

While Olivia liked the idea of saving money by living at home while attending UMSL, she wasn’t immediately sold on the idea of attending a larger public university. That initial worry, however, quickly disappeared as she settled in.

"I’ve gotten so much help here," Olivia told UMSL Daily in 2019. "I am close with the entire sociology department, as well as my French professors."

She credited that deep connection for helping her win a $20,000 Boren Scholarship, allowing her to return to Senegal in 2019 to study the Wolof language and research public health issues in Dakar. After wrapping up her undergraduate degree in sociology at UMSL, and a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Olivia served in project and management roles with several international organizations before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a management and program analyst in September 2023.