Francine Irakoze ’07

Francine Irakoze ’07 is a Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief.

Why did you choose La Roche?

I chose La Roche College because I was attracted to the school’s Catholic identity, its commitment to diversity, high-quality education and global impact, and its learning environment which allowed me to easily interact with faculty.

Why would you recommend La Roche to a prospective student?

I have many great memories of my time at La Roche, both inside and outside of the classroom. I really liked that La Roche provided many opportunities to be actively involved on campus. For example, I worked as a resident assistant and tutor. I also joined different clubs which ultimately helped me build new skills including leadership.

What impact did La Roche have on you as a person?

I was inspired by different professors like Dr. Don Fujito, Sister Michelle Bisbey and Dr. Janine Bayer. These professors taught me how to think critically among other things. I loved their commitment to each student's academic success.

Tell us a little bit about the work you do. What does your job entail?

I work for a nonprofit organization. I provide operational and programmatic support to different country teams located in Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania.

What impact did La Roche have on you as a person?

I was inspired by different professors like Dr. Fujito, Sister Michelle Bisbey and Dr. Bayer. These professors taught me how to think critically among other things. I loved their commitment to each student's academic success. 

At La Roche there also were a lot of opportunities to volunteer. My strong commitment to helping others really stems from there.

How did La Roche prepare you for this position?

I studied biology at La Roche, and the courses I took helped me to do well in graduate school where I completed a global health degree.

How did participating in activities enhance your college experience?

It helped me build strong interpersonal skills like public speaking, relationship building, communication, leadership, etc. It also allowed me to meet new people, establish great friendships and become an important contributor to campus life.

What are you most proud of when you look back on your La Roche experience?

My time as a resident assistant. I was able to organize many social activities and use my role to create a strong sense of community with my residents. I am still in touch with some of these students.

What advice do you have for our students?

Think about accepting an offer even if the position doesn’t fully align with your major/career goals. Each role that you get will allow you to build a new skill set, and it will not be a waste of time since many skills are transferable. My first job was for a mutual fund company in Toronto despite my biology degree, and it taught me a lot.

Remember that most career paths are not linear; challenge yourself and learn. You might think you know what you want to do, but with each new position, you will realize what you are really good at, explore different interests and move closer to where you are meant to be.

Favorite memory of being a La Roche student:

Alternative spring breaks. Traveling to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to support different families and traveling to Florida to work with Habitat for Humanity. I will forever be grateful for these experiences.

Please describe an experience with a faculty or staff member who made a strong, positive impact on you.

Dr. Fujito is simply amazing. He was more than a teacher. He was a great mentor. I excelled in his class because of his teaching methodology and the fact that he had an open-door policy. He was always available to answer questions outside of his normal office hours. He was extremely supportive, and even after I graduated he never hesitated to write recommendation letters. Simply the best teacher I’ve ever had.

What was it like to be an international student in Pittsburgh and at La Roche?

Having lived in Washington, D.C. prior to Pittsburgh, I didn't think Pittsburgh was a very diverse city. However, La Roche had a diverse community, and I really enjoyed all the cultural events organized by different groups of international students, like the GLOBE Fashion Show for example.