OXY STUDENT-ATHLETES PREPARING FOR LIFE WHILE EXCELLING IN SPORTS

By Mirin Fader
Sports Information
 

Alexander Graves (Sacramento) stood in a circle surrounded by several pathologists analyzing a slide of a biopsy at Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento.

After conferring with each other, one of the doctors hinted that he had an initial diagnosis in mind. Graves listened quietly for the answer. Yet the pathologist held back for a second, and with a voice of confidence in the young intern, he unexpectedly handed Graves the slide and said: “Alex, what’s the disease?”

In his nine-week summer internship as an assistant in the hospital’s pathology department, the sophomore goalie for the men’s soccer team would often find himself making the call.

“It challenged me every day,” Graves said. “My internship inspired me to work even harder in college because I know now that I want to go to medical school and become a doctor.”

Part of the reason Graves was able to assess the correct disease was because he was working closely with two pathologists that would end up mentoring him, one of which was an Occidental alum, Zarir Karanjawala ’94.

Graves plans to declare biochemistry as his major this fall as did Karanjawala during his time in Eagle Rock.

What separates his internship from typical student duties such as entering endless data into Excel sheets or even coffee fetching was that he participated in hands-on work that the pathologists themselves do daily. In addition to being trusted to correctly make a diagnosis, Graves assisted with autopsies and frozen sections, dying and analyzing each slide before dissecting and processing tissue specimen. With a greater exposure to certain kinds of cancers and diseases, Graves gained critical hands-on knowledge that will propel him forward in accomplishing his goals in the medical field.

While Graves remained in his hometown, Adrienne Ruth (Springfield, VA) ventured outside of the States all the way to Ankara, Turkey for five weeks to work at the Department of Agriculture’s office at the U.S. Embassy.

The sophomore goalkeeper that totaled 98 saves last season on the women’s lacrosse team that advanced to the SCIAC championship game for the first time learned the ins and outs of the State Department’s system. She assembled documents for compliance review, escorted visitors, and both delivered and retrieved passports to the consular section. However, once Ruth was forced to communicate with the local staff she realized she faced a critical setback: she didn’t speak Turkish.

“I was so overwhelmed,” Ruth said. “I also had multiple tasks at one time with many deadlines, but I developed critical multitasking and organizational skills because of it. It gave me great insight into how an office really works.”

Though her internship did not directly align with her career ambitions in the international security field as a Diplomacy and World Affairs major, Ruth was grateful for the opportunity to work in a competitive environment overseas. She hopes to expand on her experience next summer by getting an internship in the State Department’s Economic, Political or Political Military affairs office, perhaps with the FBI’s legal attaché office.

While both Ruth and Graves are still underclassmen, Katelyn Rowe (Carlsbad), a senior forward on the women’s basketball team, has spent the last four years building up her resume on and off the court. Most significantly, she landed an internship her junior year in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, during both the fall and spring semesters at the height of basketball season.

While her team won a fifth consecutive SCIAC regular season championship by night, Rowe would spend a few days a week in addition to a full-class load working closely with a paralegal specialist and the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney that specialized in white collar crime and fraud cases. Rowe observed a variety of federal court cases while performing legal research, revising documents, and completing administrative tasks. Rowe excelled in the government’s office, in the classroom at Oxy, and on the court as a first team all-SCIAC performer, despite juggling all three.

“Balancing work, classes, practice, and games was hard but definitely worth the opportunity,” she said. “Our coaching staff was supportive whenever I was late or missed a practice. I was able to make up workouts and film sessions in my free time. I really learned how to manage my time.”  

Able to pursue opportunities outside of athletics at Division III Oxy, Rowe will miss pre-season training to participate in the college’s United Nations program this fall, working for the United Kingdom Mission to the U.N in New York. Although Rowe was recruited to play basketball for Oxy, the U.N. program was one of the primary reasons the Politics major chose Occidental.

At a Division I university, Rowe would not have been able to participate in a year-round internship, as off-season training would have consumed all of her time.

“At Oxy, I haven’t had to sacrifice academics or work opportunities to continue my sport. I fully intend to come back and play basketball in the Spring for Oxy, and I am grateful that our coaches will allow me to do so.”

Graves appreciates the flexibility granted to student-athletes at Division III colleges.

“Being a Division III athlete has given me the freedom to pursue many interests outside sports,” he said. “I think we as student-athletes also have it the hardest because although we do not have as an intense commitment to sports like Division I schools do, more is expected of us in terms of schoolwork and jobs. Division I schools are all about focusing exclusively on your sport, but there’s much more to a Division III student-athlete than the sport we play.”

Mirin Fader is the Oxy men’s basketball beat writer. She also writes feature stories on Oxy athletes, coaches and alums and spent her summer writing for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. A senior this year, Fader hopes to make a career out of sports journalism.

All of her work, including her archived Oxy stories can be found at her website: mirinfader.com