After graduate student Abigail Kwarteng capped off her MTSU experience with a walk across the Murphy Center stage this past weekend, she set her sights on her next dream — to represent her native Ghana in high jump in next year’s Summer Olympics Games in Paris.
“Honestly, as an athlete, the Olympics is almost everybody’s dream,” said Kwarteng, who earned her Master of Public Health degree Saturday, May 6. “However, I wouldn’t say I realized it was my own Olympic dream until my time at MTSU.”
Kwarteng arrived at campus with a top-tier track-and-field career already under her belt, having competed in multiple national and international high jump championships. Under her MTSU coach Andrew Owusu, public health professor and multi-time Olympian himself, Kwarteng continued her impressive performances, ending last year as the No. 2 ranked NCAA Division I high jumper and the 26th ranked high jumper in the world.
“My coach made me realize I had a lot of potential, and I could go way farther than college competition,” she said. “He asked, ‘What are we doing here? Let’s keep going as far as we can go.’ I decided I will not end my athletic career until I’ve made it to the Olympics.”
Kwarteng said she trains at least two hours a day.
“There are running activities like pulling sleds,” she said. “I run the Floyd Stadium stairs, I jump twice a week and we also work on the more technical aspects of jumping…. I’ve always given my best performances under his coaching.”
Owusu met Kwarteng in 2016 at a competition in Ghana and said she had enormous potential.
“She was light on her feet and had the willingness to put in the hard work.”
Kwarteng transferred to MTSU after a slip in her performance at another university, Owusu said.
“I think the MTSU environment was ideal for Abigail,” he said. “She had professors, coaches, individuals in the athletic department and a community of friends who were personally invested in helping her find her feet. The quality of the MTSU environment via the provision of a supportive and nurturing environment for student-athletes is one reason why Abigail has gone on to realize much of the potential I saw in her as junior, both on and off the field.”
Despite her rigorous training schedule, Kwarteng said she found a semblance of balance between sports and real life for the first time during her years at MTSU.
“My whole life, it’s been all about sports,” Kwarteng said. “I never had the opportunity to work before MTSU. I couldn’t walk during my undergrad graduation because I had a track meet.”
Kwarteng was determined not to miss the experience this time, choked up explaining that as the first person in her family to graduate, this past Saturday’s moment meant everything.
“I’m doing this for my family,” she said. “My parents are farmers. They live thousands of miles away in Ghana. They never had the opportunity to go to school. My father even got a scholarship to attend high school for free, but his family couldn’t afford the transportation…. To be able to walk for my master’s, it’s almost surreal.”
In addition to hitting athletic milestones while on campus, Kwarteng found direction for her career in public health.
“I did my undergrad in pre-nursing, but I realized I wanted to work more in the prevention sector,” Kwarteng said. “I really wanted to work with people on a bigger level.”
She said her first job as a graduate assistant at the College of Graduate Studies fostered some of her fondest True Blue memories.
“Being in an environment where I was surrounded with academia, I learned so much. The staff were so supportive. One even came to one of my track meets.”
Now, with degree in hand, Kwarteng plans to continue the winning training formula of Murfreesboro and Owusu, while, to add to her resume, landing a part-time job in public health.
“I’ve been very interested in helping with the opiate crisis, like in Wilson County,” she said. “That’s something I’ll be looking into.”
To learn more about the Master of Public Health degree, visit the website at https://www.mtsu.edu/programs/public-health-mph/.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)
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