Ida Kuoppala: Outstanding Graduating International Student

Ida Kuoppala of Pedersöre, Finland is the Outstanding Graduating International Student in the College of Education and Human Development. She is a kinesiology and physical education major with a concentration in teaching and coaching, and a member of the Women’s Ice Hockey team. A standout forward, Kuoppala was named to the All-USCHO Rookie Team her first year at UMaine in the 2019–20 season. In her fifth and final season, she served as the assistant team captain and was named first team all-star and scoring champion. Pushed by her coaches to succeed as a hockey player and academic, Kuoppala researched how the amount of physical activity impacts academic performance in a comparison between the American and Finnish school systems. She plans to play hockey professionally in the U.S. or Europe. 

Why did you choose to come to UMaine?
I am from a small town in Finland. The community in Orono felt similar to home, and the campus is beautiful.

How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?
The atmosphere has been great. I have always found new friends in the classes I have taken, and the professors are really adaptable and understanding of my participation in athletics.

Describe any research, internships or scholarly pursuits in which you have participated. How have they prepared you for future opportunities in your chosen field?
My capstone compared the American and Finnish school systems in terms of how much physical activity students get, and how that might impact their academic performance in school. This opened my eyes to how important it is to have physical education in schools, and that homework and hours of studying without making time for exercise isn’t always the best way to educate. 

Beyond academics, what extracurricular activities have occupied your time?
I played as a forward on the UMaine Women’s Ice Hockey team for 5 years, from 2019–24 and was the assistant captain this year. In the 2019–20 season, I was named to the All-USCHO Rookie Team team and as the third team all-star. The next season, I was named the second team all-star, then first team all-star and scoring champion in my final season. 

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who made your time at UMaine better, and if so, how?
My coach Molly Engstrom has always pushed me to become a better player and a better person. She came into the program as head coach two years ago and has definitely been a role model for me. The knowledge and experience she has from playing hockey has been very valuable, and she has helped me to become a better hockey player all around.

My advisor and professor Shannan Fotter has always helped me with academics and scheduling to make sure I can take care of my classes and still participate in athletics. She has also been a big supporter, and it’s been fun seeing her in the stands at some of our games throughout my hockey career at UMaine.

Did you have an experience at UMaine that shaped or changed how you see the world?
I think the whole experience of coming to another country to study and play hockey has given me a broader perspective of the world. I have met a lot of people from different countries and experienced many different cultures. By playing on a team and getting my degree at UMaine, I have worked with people who have shaped me into who I am today.

Describe UMaine in one word and explain.
Community. I think the whole community is very involved in what the university does, especially with athletics this year. I love how people from the area show up for games and events surrounding UMaine. We might not be located in a big city, but the support from Orono, Bangor and other nearby communities has been incredible and is something very special that not many communities and colleges have.

What are your plans for after you graduate?
I am planning on playing ice hockey professionally, either in the states or Europe.

Contact: Shelby Hartin,