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Life is Never Dull for Our Academic All-Americans
February 12, 2016
Rising early for classes and getting to bed late, after hours of exhausting practice and homework is an every-day occurrence for student-athletes around Rose-Hulman. Then, weekends are filled with athletic competitions, bus rides throughout the Midwest, and more homework.
“Really, we’d have it no other way,” says women’s soccer player and track-and-field athlete Mallory McDevitt. “The term ‘student-athlete’ is a badge of honor around here. We take great pride in being able to excel in our classes, labs, and sports.”
That excellence has been exhibited on campus for more than a half century, with a proud heritage of students earning Academic All-American, Academic All-District, and Academic All-Conference recognition. In fact, Rose-Hulman has produced 118 Academic All-Americans (one in every sport offered on campus) and at least one Academic All-American for 31 consecutive years. That’s the longest annual streak among NCAA Division III institutions, and the sixth longest among all NCAA colleges and universities – ranking behind the University of Nebraska (41 years), Bucknell University (37), University of Georgia (36), University of Wisconsin (36), and Pennsylvania State University (35).
Being an Academic All-American is no easy task. Only a small percentage of the nation’s small-college student-athletes are selected as Academic All-Americans, according to Kevin Lanke, assistant athletic director for sports information and communications. Selection by College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) members comes after careful consideration of a student’s near-perfect classroom performances and being a significant contributor on his or her team.
“In many cases, Rose-Hulman student-athletes have an edge because of the institute’s strong academic reputation, science- and engineer-based major courses of study, and individual and team athletic success. Sports Information Directors appreciate that if you have a high grade point average you have earned it at Rose-Hulman,” says Lanke, operations vice chair for CoSIDA’s Academic All-American Committee.
On two occasions, Rose-Hulman student-athletes have been named Academic All-American of the Year in their sports: Kevin Kluemper, baseball (1991), and Ryan Loftus, track and field (1998).
Here are profiles of seven current student-athletes who have earned Academic All-American honors, with several others possibly joining them this academic year:
ORION MARTIN - Swimming
Senior, Physics & Computer Science (Double Major); Minor, Mathematics
Orion Martin is a two-time All-American in the swimming pool (top-eight finishes at the 2014 and 2015 NCAA Division III national championships) and a 2015 Academic All-American while in the home stretch of earning two degrees (physics and computer science), with a mathematics minor, and preparing to study quantum computing in graduate school. And, this spring, just for fun he is planning to take extra advanced-level coursework to learn the principles of atomic physics and quantum electrodynamics.
His school days normally begin with a block of classes from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., physical training sessions and lunch at mid-day, and more classes and laboratory sessions from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. He then dives into the Sports and Recreation Center pool to swim laps covering normally 6,000 yards during a two-hour practice session, before picking up a quick dinner and completing homework/lab reports until 11:30 p.m. On occasion these homework problems can take as much as 15 hours during a week to solve or require 10 pages of documentation for just one problem.
“The time I spend in the pool helps me relieve the stress from the rest of the day. It’s time when I’m in control,” he says. “Athletics has always seemed to drive my work ethic in other areas, like academics. In the pool, I can always do well.”
That success has featured Martin being a three-time College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Male Swimmer of the Year, a four-time qualifier for the NCAA Division III national championships, and a school record holder in four events (100- and 200-yard freestyle and butterfly) and five relay teams. He is hoping to qualify to compete with America’s best amateur swimmers in trial races determining the U.S. team for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
“I have challenged myself to do my best. In the end, all of the hard work has paid off–in the pool and in the classroom. I have realized my dreams,” he says.
SARAH JENSEN - Volleyball
Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering, Bachelor’s Degree, Chemical Engineering, 2015
As the granddaughter and daughter of engineers, Sarah Jensen was destined to use her science and math skills as a problem solver. That’s why she completed a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering over the course of three years, and remained on campus this school year to add a graduate degree in the same field this May, while completing her stellar collegiate volleyball career.
Jensen was a four-year starting volleyball player, earned first-team all-conference honors for three seasons, and led all current NCAA Division III volleyball players with 23 career triple-doubles in terms of kills, assists, and digs in a match. She is the second Academic All-American in the program’s history. Off the court, she has also been a member of the Chi Omega sorority, Alpha Chi Sigma chemistry fraternity, and Tau Beta Pi and Blue Key national honor societies.
“Student-athletes need to establish priorities and mentally schedule their work to get everything done. But you also have to set aside time for yourself,” she says. “What makes it easy is the support system on campus. The coaches know when to push you to do more (in practice) and when to pull back and let us get an important class project done. And, professors allow you the freedom to leave early for an away match or tournament, as long as you’re staying on top of all the classroom work. It’s a two-way street that just works out for the best at Rose-Hulman.”
As a graduate student, Jensen is studying chemical engineering courses this school year in advanced reactor design, introduction to biochemical engineering, and advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics. She has also taken a mathematics class in boundary value problems, and engineering management courses examining risk analysis and leadership. She also spends countless hours in the laboratory researching how protein adsorbs to resins and membranes. This is all preparing her for a career in bioprocess research and development for Eli Lilly and Company, starting this summer.
“Rose-Hulman has allowed me to do what I love, engineering and playing volleyball, while remaining close to my Midwest roots,” says the native of Overland Park, Kansas. “Everyone (at Rose-Hulman) shares my drive to succeed. I have been able to focus on my classwork while playing a game that I love, with people that I love being around.”
MATTHEW CONRAD - Tennis
Senior, Chemical Engineering; Minor, Biochemistry & Spanish
Matthew Conrad credits his success in the classroom (perfect 4.0 grade point average in chemical engineering) with giving him a winning edge on the tennis court, and helping Rose-Hulman become one of the Midwest’s top small-college programs.
“Academics and sports go hand in hand,” says the senior, who is also earning minors in Spanish and biochemical engineering. “It’s all about cutting out distractions, like being on the tennis court, and being structured and determined in everything you do. Rose-Hulman has taught me how not to sacrifice what I like to do, and to know my limitations. It’s all possible (being a student-athlete), if you stay ahead of the game.”
On the court, Conrad entered the 2016 spring season with a 39-21 career record in singles matches and 32-25 in doubles play, and has been a two-time first-team all-conference player. Those contributions helped the Fightin’ Engineers win the 2015 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship, becoming the first Rose-Hulman tennis team to play in the NCAA Division III tournament.
“Sports are fun for me and provide an appropriate outlet for my competitive instincts. It’s me against the opponent. In class, it’s me trying to solve the problem or completing a lab assignment. There are challenges with both, and I appreciate those personal challenges,” says the 2015 Academic All-American. “Maintaining a 4.0 (grade point average) is personally satisfying, to an extent, because I try to do my best in everything that I do.”
Conrad has other interests as well. He has been a tutor for Rose-Hulman’s Homework Hotline, helping youths throughout the country understand the complexities of math and science; has been a small group leader in the campus’ InterVarsity Christian Fellowship organization; and works in the Learning Center as a tutor for international students learning English as a second language.
“Academics always come first, but I can be competitive in tennis and contribute to other aspects of college life,” he says.
MALLORY McDEVITT - Soccer/Track and Field
Senior, Electrical Engineering
There’s no off-season in the athletic calendar for Mallory McDevitt. Each fall, she has been a major contributor to the women’s soccer team. Then, she has turned her attention to soaring to new heights in the pole vault event for the track-and-field team during the winter and spring seasons. Somewhere in between there’s time to help classmates complete a senior-year capstone design project in electromagnetics, helping lead the campus’ Delta Delta Delta sorority chapter, and contributing to the Eta Kappa Nu electrical engineering honor society.
“Soon after coming (to Rose-Hulman) I developed a ‘Do What I Need to Do Today’ attitude that has made everything manageable,” she says. “I knew that it would take a lot of hard work to succeed here in athletics and academics. Taking advantage of all the wonderful resources here, I have been able to make it all work out for the best.”
McDevitt’s Academic All-American honor came in soccer, where she started all 75 possible matches of her career and was a key member of a defensive unit that ranked in the national top 20 in fewest goals allowed and save percentage in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The two-year team captain was a four-time all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference player, and became only the second soccer player in Rose-Hulman history to receive all-region honors in multiple years (2014 and 2015). She also has placed second in the pole vault at the conference’s 2015 indoor championships.
“I like to lead by example. I’m willing to do anything for the team and add anything in a positive way that I can,” she says. “I love the role that sports play at Rose-Hulman. I have found that athletics has helped my academics, keeping me focused throughout each sports season (covering each academic quarter of the school year). Athletics and academics are a packaged deal at Rose-Hulman.”
Sports also helped her move onto the next stage, post-graduate employment as a systems safety engineer with General Electric’s aviation division. The company’s contact, a former Rose-Hulman men’s soccer player, liked McDevitt’s leadership roles in intercollegiate athletics, along with her strong academic record.
AARON ABBOTT - Football
Senior, Mechanical Engineering
JOE MOEHRLE - Football
Junior, Mechanical Engineering
CHRIS SANDER - Football
Senior, Chemical Engineering
Rose-Hulman’s reputation of producing Academic All-Americans on the gridiron continued this past fall with three football players being recognized—two for the second consecutive year. A total of 42 of the institute’s 119 Academic Americans have been football players, and six different players have been honored since 2013, an era in which the Fightin’ Engineers have been among the leaders in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC).
“Success on the football field and in the classroom is encouraged here, and in many ways it helps us win games,” says standout wide receiver Aaron Abbott, one of the 2015 Academic All-Americans. “Our offensive playbook has so many more plays than our opponents, because we have the players who can pick up a multitude of things. And, there are many times that our defense knows the opposing team’s play before the ball is snapped, because the players read the offensive formation. They realize what’s coming.”
One of those smart defensive players was Chris Sander, a senior defensive back who maintains a perfect 4.0 grade point average in chemical engineering. He amassed 182 career tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a three-year starter. This past season, Sander helped a defensive unit that led the HCAC in fewest yards allowed per game and ranked second in scoring defense.
An Academic All-American in 2014 and 2015, Sander is a member of Rose-Hulman’s American Society of Chemical Engineers student chapter and has an interest in sustainability, fostered through his involvement in the institute’s Home for Environmentally Responsible Engineering program.
Abbott will complete his mechanical engineering degree this winter, before joining the technical sales team at The Sheffer Corporation near his hometown in Lebanon, Ohio. In his four years as a Fightin' Engineer, he posted school records with 218 receptions and 2,509 receiving yards. He also ranks second in program history with 26 career touchdown receptions.
“Playing at Rose-Hulman has been a fantastic experience. I got to play college football for four years, graduate one quarter early, and got a job. I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” remarks Abbott, who also was an Academic All-American in 2014 and 2015.
This year’s third football Academic All-American was Joe Moehrle, a junior tight end who had 34 receptions for 550 yards and seven touchdowns last fall. Known for acrobatic catches, the mechanical engineering major has twice earned HCAC Football Player of the Week honors during his career.