Q: Where is home for you?
I am from a tiny cornfield town called Waterloo, IL, outside St. Louis.
Q: What is your year and major?
A: I am a junior academically, but I am a student-athlete and transferred from the University of Georgia after my first year and was given a covid year from the NCAA, so I am only considered a sophomore athletically. I am studying early childhood education with a minor in psychology.
Q: How did you know you wanted to go into the field of education?
A: I started at Georgia studying aerospace engineering. Though I loved this major and wanted to succeed, I didn't feel like it was my calling. I uprooted my life when I transferred and made many major decisions. One was changing my major. My parents are both teachers, as well as every person in my life who I felt made a great impact. All my primary role models are teachers and coaches. I want to impact children's lives in the same ways they were able to impact mine. It felt natural to make this change, and it felt like I was meant to be doing it all along.
Q: What do you enjoy about the College of Education?
A: The College of Education is at the forefront of new information in the field. I feel like the education I am receiving is the latest and most applicable education in the country regarding early childhood. I enjoy the small cohorts we are in on the professional educator sequence. It's small, but I know the people in charge and my peers very well, and feel like I can talk to them about anything. It creates this sense of familiarity and family. Everyone wants us to succeed, which shows their ability to connect with the students. As a student-athlete, I have many more conflicts while traveling and with game schedules. The College has worked with me to ensure I am getting all I need out of school while understanding my sports aspirations.
Q: What do you enjoy about your campus experience so far?
A: The diversity on campus, I have to say, makes Illinois the most unique. On my first day on campus, I was moving into my apartment complex when I got on an elevator with approximately nine other people. All of whom spoke a different language than mine. It was my first experience interacting with so many different cultures at once. I love that about Illinois. The mosaic of cultures here makes it an extraordinary place to go to school - and makes the food here much more than just food. It's a cultural experience.
Q: What is a fun fact about yourself?
A: I created my own clothing brand designed to smash the stigmas of how women are perceived in the media. The whole brand is centered around trying to change those perspectives. It is called MVND BVND Apparel, pronounced "Mind Bend." I do it on the side, but it allows my creative side to show through and allows me to have other identities alongside my identity in soccer.
Q: You recently held a fundraiser for Extra Yard for Teachers. How did it go, and what about this charity made you want to support it?
A: The university's Athletic Department took me to the NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) Summit in Atlanta this past June. There, I met representatives from Meta. I was chosen as one of 30 girls across the country to join Meta in their NIL Empower 2.0 group. It included a series of educational Zoom calls this past semester where I learned how to leverage their platforms (Instagram and Facebook). Near the end of the semester, they challenged us to start fundraisers on our page to raise money for the Extra Yard for Teachers Foundation. This felt like the perfect opportunity to pay it back to all of those role models who impacted me so considerably this far in my life. Since I am studying to become a teacher myself, this felt like an excellent chance to give to the field and help schools around the country gain access to resources, education, and support for their teachers. In my opinion, teachers are the foundation for everything, and my studies here at the university continue to prove the vital role educators play in children's lives. I saw the importance, and I acted on it. With my platform as a soccer player and all of this newly gained knowledge about how to highlight certain aspects of my life and what I care about on my social media accounts, the fundraiser took off. I ended up raising $2,960.
Q: Tell us about any research you've done and the mentorship you've received from your instructors.
A: My favorite aspect of school this far at Illinois and with the College of Education was this past semester. I was in two classes that worked very closely with the Early Childhood Development Lab. Being a research university, we have many more opportunities to interact with the community for research. The ECDL is very special and does a wonderful job of allowing us to observe for educational purposes. In some cases, I worked with the Children in the ECDL and had hands-on experience in the field, which was my favorite part of my educational career thus far.
Q: Tell us about your future career plans after graduating and why you want to pursue that field.
A: Post graduation, I have hopes to enter the National Women's Soccer League draft first and foremost. I dream of playing professionally, and I have had it since I could kick a ball. I have to follow that dream when I get the chance. I would be beyond excited to play my sport after college, whether that's here in the U.S. or somewhere overseas. After that, I want to study more and coach. If I coach, I would like to go back to school and get experience as a graduate assistant with a college soccer program somewhere and study either education law, marketing, or sports business. There are a lot of different avenues I could take.
There are so many different avenues I could go with my education at that point. I am open to seeing where life takes me. I have my aspirations and determination to be successful in whatever that may be. If life doesn't take me toward more school or furthering my soccer career, stepping into the classroom would be ideal. That's what I am setting myself up to do now, and I could not be prouder of myself for deciding to switch my major just about two years ago now. It has been a fruitful experience. I wouldn't change it for the world. I owe this university everything. I could not be more grateful for the people I have surrounded myself with in the athletic department and the College of Education.