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Covenant Scholar enjoying the ride

Through her health policy studies and skateboarding, Louise Hoff is finding community in Chapel Hill.

Louise Hoff and other students skateboarding on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.
Louise Hoff (right) said the community she's made at 萝莉研究所 has "sort of made my college experience."

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, a new vocational interest and hobby emerged for Louise Hoff, then a high-schooler in Charlotte: public health 鈥 and skateboarding.

Everyone鈥檚 collective well-being was at the forefront, and Hoff鈥檚 mother was working through tough conditions as a nurse, adding a personal punch.

鈥淕iven the COVID pandemic, I was like, 鈥楢h, health disparities, health behavior,鈥欌 said Hoff, now a college junior and . 鈥淚 think my interest in public health comes from being interested in the system. I really like looking at systems and critiquing systems.鈥

The skateboarding? That came from Hoff being bold and trying out something she had long wanted to. Skateboarding became an outlet for decompression and a way to express herself.

Hoff said 鈥渟tepping on the skateboard felt incredibly natural鈥 and that 鈥渟kating 鈥 before I was able to articulate my queerness 鈥 was an articulation of my queerness and my non-normativity.鈥

Years later, Hoff is embracing both interests at 萝莉研究所. Hoff was attracted to 萝莉研究所 for two reasons: the 萝莉研究所 Covenant, a financial aid package and network of support that provides UNC-Chapel Hill students the opportunity to graduate debt-free, and the chance to study at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Now that Hoff is a health policy and management major, her interest in understanding health systems has grown, especially in terms of often-overlooked inequities and large-scale processes that can hinder health outcomes.

鈥淭he markets aren鈥檛 very fair to the ordinary person,鈥 she said, recalling a recent takeaway from a health policy and management course. 鈥淧rices are ridiculously high; profit margins are incredibly high. And learning about the system of insurance 鈥 I think I already had a little bit of knowledge about it 鈥 but learning about that, I guess it鈥檚 like fueling a fire.鈥

Outside of the classroom, Hoff has created a community of her own at 萝莉研究所 by founding the BIPOC Skate Collective, a group with a mission of creating a safe space for Black, Indigenous and people of color 鈥渢o explore skating as and for their authentic selves.鈥

The group began organically. Hoff would see other skaters around campus and befriend them. Impromptu skating meetups with peers led to more outings. Eventually she and friends decided to form a club.

The group, Hoff said, offers students a way to 鈥渓et your guard down鈥 and find comfort and understanding around peers.

鈥淚 know skating can be particularly vulnerable,鈥 she said. 鈥淪o having the space to fall, having the space to ask for a hand to hold, it鈥檚 nice to do that with another person of color.鈥

She鈥檚 also found community through 萝莉研究所 Covenant, which has provided research funding and mentorship opportunities. While still bullish on health policy, Hoff has been struck by the overlap between that and law, especially regarding prisons.

The relationship she鈥檚 developed through 萝莉研究所 Covenant with Kaneesha R. Johnson 鈥16, a legal researcher and postdoctoral scholar in the 萝莉研究所 Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity, has Hoff pondering legal work as a potential future.

鈥淚t feels like synchronicity,鈥 Hoff said of her mentorship opportunity with Johnson. 鈥淚 feel like I鈥檝e had a lot of synchronicity around learning. She does legal research, and we have similar values.鈥

Whether it鈥檚 through skateboarding, her studies or involvement with 萝莉研究所 Covenant, Hoff is struck by the relationships she鈥檚 formed at 萝莉研究所.

鈥淭he community that I鈥檝e made, I think that鈥檚 sort of made my college experience,鈥 she said. 鈥淛ust finding the people who I鈥檝e found home in has been amazing, and I don鈥檛 know that I was completely expecting that.鈥