Komlan Soe ’13

Degrees: Political Science, Sociology

Career: 2014 New Leaders Council Fellow

Uganda is one of the world’s poorest nations, and it’s where Komlan Soe ’13 spent last summer – the summer after his graduation from URI – traveling to rural villages to help women improve the small businesses they’d started years earlier.

In a nation ravaged by civil unrest, thousands of men have been killed and women are fending for themselves. They’re raising goats and running restaurants, and Komlan taught them how to balance their books, reinvest any profits, and diversify.

“Women don’t just need handouts,” said Komlan, who made the trip with the Community Transforming Network. “They need knowledge about how to start and run businesses so they’re successful. They need guidance to help themselves and their children.”

Komlan would know. He was just three when civil war erupted and drove his family of 11 from their idyllic farm in Liberia to a refugee camp on the Ivory Coast and 10 years later to another camp in Ghana. It was there where a United Nations worker’s gift of knowledge and guidance changed his life at the age of 15.

Komlan would stop by the camp’s UN office and read everything available. The worker started bringing him literature, novels, and nonfiction about political theory and encouraged him to take an entrance exam at a prestigious boarding school nearby. He earned the highest score among the 50 applicants and won a four-year scholarship to a private school.

He studied every night in the library until closing, developing a passion for global politics. In 2005, he came to Providence to join his father. He worked full time, enrolled in community college in 2008, and transferred to URI two years later. In 2013, Komlan became the first member of his family to graduate from college. And he did it with honors.

His big idea is to earn a doctorate in public policy and international relations, return to Liberia and work to make the country whole again.

“It’s broken,” said Komlan, who has personally funded a scholarship for a Liberian child to attend school. “I can try.”


Although Thupten Tendhar has been far away from his Tibetan home for most of his life, he considers himself to be one of the most fortunate Tibetans on this planet today.