CPH student graduation speaker Irene Frempong
photo credit: Andrew Thayer

When Irene Frempong, student speaker at the College of Public Health's 2024 Graduation ceremony, addresses classmates at the Liacouras Center on May 8, she plans to talk about their unique experience as the first graduating college class fully impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a class whose high-school graduation ceremonies were curtailed. Their proms scheduled for springtime in 2020 were canceled. The start of their college lives was marked by isolation and remote classes. 

“We had to overcome that,” she says, previewing her speech a little.  “Coming into freshman year, we didn’t get to mingle with each other. We didn’t get that other level of independence and self-discovery. We had to learn in different ways. I’m commending everyone for how far we all have come.” 

Frempong, who was born in Ghana, started thinking about a career in health when she was in grade school. One day after school, she says, she saw a TV program about medical clinicians traveling to Africa to help deliver care. “I just found myself crying, watching people who were just in dire need of medical attention,” she recalls.   

Her mother was a teacher in Ghana, and her father is an engineer. Frempong joined her sisters and father, who had moved to New York, when she was in fifth grade, with her mother arriving later. She followed her sisters to Temple and will graduate next month with an undergraduate degree in public health. She will return to Temple in the fall for her master of public health in health policy and management. 

In her time as an undergraduate student, Frempong says she has enjoyed the diversity of subjects within public health. She loved epidemiology, the way it combines math, geography and health and population issues. She was a peer advisor in the college and a Diamond Peer Teacher for Ethical Issues in Biomedical Science Engineering and Technology. She was president of the Pentecost Students Association (PENSA) on campus. And this semester she worked as an intern in the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity, which advocates for the development of programs that address health disparities. 

“I'm very interested in policy and decision-making,” Frempong says. “Being able to make a global impact is where my interest lies.  I’m thinking about the United Nations potentially, where I could impact people where I come from, Ghana, and other parts of Africa.” 

She will encourage her graduating classmates to aim high. “Remember that the world depends on us, and what we as public health students have acquired,” she plans to say.  “Be bold and courageous.”