Back To Her Roots
How Lucy Koch Found Her Passion and is Living Her Dream

By Sophia Werning

Lucy in Times Square

“Nothing prepares you.”

This is how junior Lucy Koch somberly describes the frantic moments following the phone call from her mother that she received just one week into her sophomore year, in the fall of 2014. Koch’s parents – both alumni of UNL – just a few days prior had moved her into her dorm from the family’s home in St. Louis, Missouri. Afterward, they had taken Lucy and her younger sister to dinner and group-hugged her goodbye. With the phone call from back home came the news that Lucy’s father – who had seemingly been in good health -- had suffered a heart attack and passed away.

“It felt like I was in a movie,” Lucy recalls, “I remember falling to my knees, confused and crying. At the time of the phone call. I am so grateful that my roommate and her boyfriend were there because without them I wouldn’t have been able to handle the situation as I did. My grandmother also lives in Lincoln, so having her support, not only the day of my dad’s passing, but continuously, is such a blessing.”

The weeks to follow were challenging for Lucy as she struggled to come to terms with the passing of her father while forging ahead with her studies. Classes had just begun, and she had to e-mail her teachers to let them know she would be absent for a week as her family planned a celebration of life ceremony for her father. Lucy’s parents had, following college, relocated to St. Louis to allow her father to live out his dream of opening a comic book store.

Although she grew up in the heart of St. Louis, Lucy always had her sights on being a Husker and was able to attend her parent’s alma mater through a legacy scholarship. Initially an accounting major, Lucy had a change of heart about her future following the tragic loss of her father.

“My dad loved comic books -- it was his passion,” she explains. “He really believed in doing what you love and because of that I knew I needed to change the direction of my schooling.”  Lucy recalls having a heartfelt discussion about this with her English professor, Kelly Payne, from whom she received a great deal of moral support during the difficult days following her father’s passing.

“I made an appointment to meet with her and discuss my future,” Lucy recalls. “During the meeting she asked if I had ever thought about being an English major, and explained her suggestion based on the work I was doing in her class at the time.” Payne went on to list numerous areas of the profession that sparked a great deal of enthusiasm in Lucy, including a potential career in the editing and publishing field. It was then that she decided to change her major to pursue her passion for literature as well as racially and ethnically diverse cultures.

 “Where I grew up, our neighborhood had a lot of diversity, which is such a big part of who I am,” Lucy explains. She decided that her English education would have to include a strong component in racial and ethnic studies. Today, she is majoring in English and Ethnic Studies, with minors in African American Studies, History, and Business.

“Andrews Hall became a home for me, and Kelly has been such a huge support,” Lucy reflects. With Payne’s encouragement, Lucy applied to serve on the English Student Advisory Board to help mentor incoming students. “I wanted to give back,” she explains. “Because of all of the support given to me, I wanted to help other students feel that sense of belonging, that they had a voice.” This experience nurtured Lucy’s next leadership pursuit as a Student Ambassador for the college at the beginning of her junior year.

Lucy with her father and sister

Lucy with her father and sister.

Lucy with Noah Ballard

"Noah Ballard ('11) and myself at the New Jersey transit at the conclusion of my week-long visit to New York City."

ESAB Group

English Student Advisory Board, 2015-2016.

These opportunities opened many exciting doors for Lucy. Today, she is a thriving student who recently earned her second scholarship that will take her to New York City to intern for UNL alumnus, literary agent Noah Ballard (’11). She is getting real-life professional experience editing and reviewing manuscripts under Ballard's direction with the New York based literary agency, Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Lucy aspires to bring attention to the lack of diversity among published authors and those working in the publishing industry. Lucy strives to be a force for change in closing that gap. She recently completed a class project – the book Alphabet: Food For Thought, highlighting the many contributions to literature, culture and society by iconic African Americans and others who have immigrated from other parts of the world.

With all of her successes thus far as an undergraduate, Lucy has set her sights toward a career and future where she will be a force for good in her community and beyond. “I cannot undo 400 years of discrimination,” Lucy notes, “but I can certainly be a strong voice for promoting positive change.”

Lucy encourages her fellow students to pursue their education with open minds and explore what their passions are and what brings them true happiness. She also expresses a great deal of gratitude for the scholarship support and the numerous opportunities to grow within the College of Arts and Sciences, which have enabled her to achieve this for herself.

“I am honoring my father’s memory by respecting my passions,” Lucy says. ”I believe that when you find something you love to do, that leads to more drive and determination, and success will naturally follow.”


Black women authors

"My Black Women Authors class taught by Maureen Honey. In this class, I made the book 'Alphabet' that analyzes black identity and culture through history from literature to pop culture references."

Student Ambassadors

Student Ambassadors, 2016.

with Meg Reid

"Meg Reid and myself in Rockefeller Center. Meg was, at the time, an associate editor for Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster."