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Volleyball player attacks court, classroom

Athletics Jan 24, 2020
A smiling woman poses for a picture in an atrium
A smiling woman poses for a picture in an atrium

KOKOMO, Ind. – The transition from high school to college sports can be difficult, with talented players learning to play as part of a team, rather than as its star. But Mary Westover took advantage of these lessons and turned them into success – both on the court and in the classroom.

During her freshman year at Indiana University Kokomo, she started and played a lot, but she saw her role change and diminish through the seasons. 

That was hard at first, but “it made me realize that when you are part of a team, it’s not all about you,” said Westover, who graduates in May. “It’s about how I could contribute, how I could get the team to nationals. It made me a better team player

She chose IU Kokomo for her undergraduate studies because of the opportunities in the School of Sciences, as well as the chance to be a college athlete — with a coach who emphasized excellence in the classroom and on the court.

That was important to Westover, as she didn’t choose an easy path. She majored in biological and physical sciences, with minors in math, chemistry, and biology, while also working part time as a pharmacy technician. She’s been on the dean’s list for academic excellence throughout her career, and earned the CRC freshman chemistry award.

“Coach [Heather] Hayes is really academic minded,” Westover said. “She really pushes us to have good grades, that we’re here first to be students. My teammates keep each other on track, too.”

The small class sizes and relationships that are possible because of it also attracted her. She had the opportunity to work in the chancellor’s office, and was able to include a recommendation letter from Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke in her application packet to pharmacy school.

Her professors worked with her so she could keep up in class while away for games, and encouraged her as both a student and an athlete, she said. 

“I always saw a lot of faculty at games, which we all appreciated,” Westover said. “That’s something we definitely talk about with potential recruits, the level of support we receive on campus.”

Her dedication, both in the classroom and on the court, paid off with early decision admission to her first-choice pharmacy program, at the University of Michigan. Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she’d dreamed for years of earning a Pharm.D. from the prestigious program.

Westover begins the nine-semester program in Ann Arbor in August, and tentatively plans to work in a hospital or government pharmacy, potentially with the Federal Drug Administration or Centers for Disease Control.  She’s excited for the next steps in her career.

“Michigan has been my dream school all these years,” she said. “I really can’t stop talking about it. It’s something I take a lot of pride in. It’s definitely one of my biggest life achievements.”

Her teammates and other athletes cheered her on through the early admissions process. Fellow athletes and coaches helped her practice for interviews, critiqued her résumé and application, and celebrated by wearing Michigan’s maize and blue to the first practice after she received her acceptance letter.

“I’ve really had a great family here, with the team and other athletes,” she said. “That’s going to be really hard to leave in July.”

She was part of a volleyball senior class that earned immense success, with an overall win-loss record of 112-34, and three straight River States Conference championship titles. The four seniors also had the highest four-year GPA in campus athletic history, with an average of 3.41 in their career as of the fall semester. During their time on campus, the volleyball team also went to the NAIA national tournament in Iowa twice.

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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