By Mark Soltau
Many Stanford student-athletes distinguished themselves in 2013–14. Some will pursue professional sports and other careers. Here are profiles of two graduating seniors who excelled in and out of the classroom and are destined to become role models and future leaders.
Hope Burke, Field Hockey
A two-time NorPac West All-Conference and All-Academic selection, Burke scored a team-high nine goals and shared season high-point honors with 22. She scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory against Michigan. A native of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, Burke was a double-major in history and African-American studies, and received the Sheryl Johnson Academic Excellence Award and an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, the only Stanford student-athlete to earn the award.
“Both of my majors have really allowed me the space to pursue what I’m really interested in, which is history,” she said. “I think it’s been really uplifting and encouraging throughout my time as a student-athlete to have professors and people involved in the department behind me 110 percent.
“I wrote a thesis this year. My thesis advisor and I would talk on the phone after games when we were traveling and was always willing to email with me. Everyone was really supportive of how difficult it is to balance your time. Constantly being busy taught me a lot about respecting other people’s time and respecting yourself for juggling 20 different things.
“Stanford is the biggest community I’ve ever had. I feel grounded and people genuinely care about what I’m doing. It’s a very unique place. Not many of my friends in college are having the conversations that I’m having, talking about race, class, and privilege.
“Next year, I will be teaching middle school or high school English in Baltimore, Maryland, for Teach for America. It’s going to be difficult working at an under-privileged school, but I think that’s where we have the most opportunity to make growth. My mom has taught French and English for more than 10 years, and I used to sit with her while she graded papers. My stepmom is a social worker. To see how much of an impact they can have on students has really pushed me to do something with people.
“It’s really amazing to see how far our field hockey program has come in four years. I think we’ve really redefined the culture of the program and what we value and what we pursue. It’s not just something on the field; you’re not just cultivating skills to beat someone, score a goal, or play collective defense. The biggest lessons I learned were how to be a good teammate, how to care about other people’s dreams, and how to work through adversity.
“What I’ve had here the last four years is more than I could have possibly expected. It’s an infinite moment that I will bottle up and never forget. If you are willing to be put in the effort and seek out professors and make friends outside of athletics, people are so willing to accept you and encourage you. The best thing I could have done at Stanford was to become involved in so many different things because that’s where I really feel fulfilled.”
Justine Fedronic, Cross Country/Track and Field
A five-time All-American, Fedronic set the school 800-meter indoor and outdoor records in 2012. Born in Germany, she spent her early childhood in France and moved to the United States at age six. Fedronic speaks four languages. She is majoring in earth systems and minoring in product design, focusing on physics and math in the latter. The oldest of four kids, she attended Carlmont High in Belmont, California, where she was a three-time CCS cross country champion. Fedronic recently turned professional and will compete this summer in Europe with the French National Team.
“I was really drawn to my major because of my family background,” she said. “My grandpa has a small, sustainable farm near Martinique, which is very rare because of the plantation economy. My mom comes from a small town in Hungary where everyone still has their own chickens. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different ecosystems, even in California, so I’ve always had an appreciation for that.
“I’ve also lived in cities and my topic of research my senior year was biophilia, which is the idea that humans are innately dependent on nature exposure. The way our cities have developed, that isn’t really a part of urban life anymore. That’s led me to want to minor in product design, so I could get more experience in the design and construction field and apply the things that I learned in earth systems to design and change people’s behavior so we can live more sustainably, but also improve our psychological and physiological well-being.
“I think of myself as a track athlete. I didn’t run cross country until Coach Milt (Chris Miltenberg) came along my senior year. It was a huge year of transition. We somehow created this team that didn’t exist before and finished third at the NCAA’s, which was a huge surprise. I only ran two races, but I guess they were the right races. That was the first time I stood on a podium with my teammates. Once you get a taste of that, I think it motivates you a lot more in your training.
“This past indoor season was my last with the girls and the team. Our focus the whole time was the distance medley relay. We ran No. 3 all-time in NCAA history at Penn State, and I ran the fourth leg. We had so much confidence in each other. Our team came in second and it just showed how much we have grown.
“I want to leave a strong legacy, but more than my accomplishments time-wise, I want to be remembered as a good teammate that would motivate the team but also enjoy the process. Obviously you can’t do that unless you prove yourself as a tough competitor. One thing I’ve learned in college is to get on the starting line with the right attitude, no matter what the circumstances are.
“My favorite place at Stanford is Hoover Tower. I visit about every two months just to look around and soak it all in.
“I can honestly say I’m proud of my journey. I’ve come a really long way, considering who I was as a freshman. I’ve been hurt a lot, but perseverance can go a long way, especially if you surround yourself with the right people. I’ve been really lucky. The community at Stanford has been so supportive. There were so many times when it didn’t really make sense for me to keep running, but there were enough people who believed in me.
“My plan is keep running until the next Olympics. Then I’ll go back to school and get my master’s in industrial design. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at Stanford, it’s that if you’re really passionate about something, you’ve got to throw yourself into it.”