Spotlight on Students Athletes

Spotlight On: Clark Honors College Student Athletes

By Mark Nelson and Derek Maiolo
September 2017

Rennie Kendrick, Sean Killpatrick, and Caitlyn Wong are crafting their own, unique college experiences. Blending top-tier athletics with top-tier academics through the Clark Honors College, these students are determined to have it all.

Taking on the rigorous practice regimen of a PAC-12 team with the intensive workload of an honors curriculum means little sleep and sore muscles. But for these students, making the most of each moment seems to come as naturally as a breath of air.

Rennie Kendrick

Rennie Kendrick is a sophomore studying biology and is on the Track and Field Team. At Grant High School, she was much more than an elite athlete — she was extremely involved in school clubs like the school magazine and the constitution team, as well as recreational activities like chamber choir and an Oregon Health and Science University lab.

Rennie Kendrick

Rennie wanted to find a college that would be the perfect fit. She visited UO and sat in on honors college professor Casey Schoop’s class, and was wowed by how unique and energetic he was. “I had never had an English teacher that dove that deep and had such original mind exploded!” says Rennie. She recalls thinking “This is so cool! I want to come here!”

Selected as a Stamps Scholarship recipient, a merit- based scholarship that covers full costs for four years of study, she made the decision to attend the UO “purely for academics — really liking the school and research lab opportunities.” Athletics weren’t far from her mind however.

“ I see running as something that complements school. It is a lot of time, but it keeps me focused on school and helps me be organized. ”

Once on campus, she joined the Running Club to stay involved with the sport, and caught the eye of the Track and Field coaches. Impressed by her running times, the head coach offered her a developmental spot on the Track and Field Team. She red-shirted last year, training daily at Hayward Field.

As a student-athlete, Rennie finds her college experience extremely rewarding. She views her participation in athletics as something that complements school. “It is a lot of time, but it keeps me focused on school and helps me be organized” she says.

Training five days a week is tough, but for her “being around people that are so good helps give me bigger goals, and the team culture is beyond purely competition – everyone feels like a part of the team.”

Being both an honors college student and student athlete may seem like a challenge, balancing two daunting commitments, but it all comes down to one’s perspective and mindset. Rennie believes that “being around good athletes and good students pushes you to get better” — and isn’t that what the honors college is all about?

Sean Killpatrick

Junior Sean Killpatrick can’t stand to have a schedule with more than ten minutes of downtime. 

When he isn’t practicing as a cornerback for the Duck squad, co-directing the Student Athletic Advisory Council and Be Oregon organization, or leading church services, he pores over literary classics and historical documents alongside business textbooks as an honors college student and accounting major. “I just wake up every day excited for classes and football,” he says.

Sean Killpatrick

When deciding on a college, Sean considered the ten schools to which he’d been accepted, weighing the pros and cons of each. Among his options were Princeton and UC Berkeley, and the chance to attend an Ivy League enchanted him the most — until he visited UO.

Sean said first and foremost that the atmosphere at UO was “a lot more welcoming” than his experience at Princeton. He got the chance to meet with the Ducks’ football coaches, whom he said treated him with a respect that he hadn’t received elsewhere. When he told them about his goal to be a walk-on, Sean said they made him feel confident that he could get a spot on the Oregon team. “The coaches were more upfront,” he says. “They showed a lot of support.”

The chance to attend the Clark Honors College while playing football for a top-performing state school solidified his commitment to UO. “The honors college would be an opportunity to continue to be in accelerated classes and strive to be the best in both fields, in academics and also in football,” he says of his decision.

Now with a few college terms under his belt, Sean says that the honors college courses he’s taken have continuously been his favorite. “I’m a person that likes to move around, talk to other folks,” he says. That makes him quite a fan of the roundtable discussions quintessential of honors classes.

“I like them because you can get ideas from one another and communicate your own,” says Sean. He’s been able to draw on his experience as a student athlete for class discussions when topics such as the politics of college sports arise, offering a perspective that others may not have considered. “It’s just a collective learning environment that I’m really fond of,” he says.

Inspired by the football team’s initiative to “do something every day, make a play,” Sean has his eyes set on continuing to do his best, both in the classroom and on the field.

Caitlyn Wong

Caitlyn Wong ’17 graduated this past spring with a degree in biochemistry, and renown for her time as a center defender on the Women’s Soccer Team. When considering which college to attend as a highly-recruited high school soccer player, both athletics and academics were a high priority for her.

Caitlyn Wong

“It was really important to me to maintain a high level of academic work and hold myself to a high standard,” says Caitlyn. “I come from a strong academic background with my family and where I’m from. I wanted to make sure I was able to challenge myself.”

She ultimately chose to attend UO because “it gave me the opportunity to play in the Pac-12, compete at the highest level, and train with the best. Then I wanted to join the honors college because I felt that if I did the honors college and competed at Oregon it would be the best of both worlds, and I’d be able to challenge myself academically and athletically.”

“ If I did the honors college and competed at Oregon, it would be the best of both worlds. ”

It was a smart move. Caitlyn thrived at UO, advancing both on the soccer team, and succeeding academically.

As an experienced honors college student-athlete, Caitlyn notes that “You have a harder workload than the average student,” but she “managed to stick it out!” and views it as a very rewarding experience on both ends. It took sacrifices to manage her time. Fortunately one of her greatest skills is time management — it’s the reason she has gotten this far in her academic and athletic careers.

Looking back at her experience as a recent graduate, Caitlyn believes that the mentorship she received from faculty was invaluable. “My biggest influence was professor Louise Bishop, she’s awesome!” she says. “I met with her when I was a tiny wide-eyed freshman over summer before school ever started. Since then, she’s been a huge mentor for me, and I’d meet with her probably three times every year to just catch up on what’s going on in her life and in mine.”

Caitlyn knew that she wanted to make the most of her time in college. “This was a once in a lifetime chance” she says. 

By committing to the highest level of academics and athletics, these determined students have made the most of the opportunities available to them, and have truly gotten the best of both worlds here at the University of Oregon, and the Clark Honors College.