Dec. 6, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -
Each Thursday, GoStanford.com presents an interview between a former Stanford gymnast and team manager Tori Lewis. This week, Tori interviews Stephanie Carter. The following is Tori's conversation with Stephanie:
Q: Can you catch everyone on up on what you’ve been doing since you graduated from Stanford?
A: I took an extra quarter so I graduated in December of 2010. Then I left for a year to go to Australia for my master’s program. I got a master’s degree in Melbourne, Australia which took me up until this point last year. I came back in January 2012 and have been living in Menlo Park with Carly Janiga, who was a member of my [Stanford women’s gymnastics] class, as well as one other girl. I have had experience doing an internship with a medical device design company. Currently, I am coaching gymnastics at a gym in Mountain View. It’s nice to be back in the gym and I’m coaching all levels, so it’s a great experience and I’m happy doing it.
Q: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
A: I think getting up the nerve to go to Melbourne, completing school there on my own, and graduating with a master’s degree is a pretty big accomplishment. You can ask some of my friends, there were times when I wasn't sure I was going to make it through the entire year. But in the end I prevailed and walked across the stage to receive my diploma, which signified way more than the completion of educational requirements. It was a wonderful feeling.
Q: What life lesson has stuck with you from your time in the gym?
A: I was in a very unique position. I competed my freshman year and then got injured the summer following that. I spent the next two years trying to get back healthy enough to compete again. Finally, senior year, I sat down with [head coach Kristen Smyth] and it was kind of decision-making time. We decided that my body just wasn’t going to allow me to physically get back in. She kept me on the team 100 percent and I was able to fully give myself over in another way to the team. I think I learned different lessons from my different types of experiences.
From the physical side, it was all about dedication and all those character traits that gymnastics teaches you that you could never learn in a classroom. On the emotional side, I think what I learned most is that commitment and dedication all thrive when you love people as much as our team loved each other. I think we were able to show when we stepped out on the floor at a meet how much that love was able to carry us through. We were very successful and we had a lot of fun doing it. Out on the floor, we got compliments on how bubbly and fun we were and it was nice to know that people were watching that. We were able to draw people in and show them how great of a program Stanford is. I think we learned how 15 different people can come together toward one common goal.
Q: What’s your favorite memory from SWG?
A: Gymnastically, my favorite moment would be my first time competing. I have a vivid memory of how I felt. The moment that I landed, it took about a millisecond until I was in the arms of my teammates, which was something that was just really special to me.
From the other side, the behind-the-scenes part, I think my favorite memory was my senior year at nationals. After the first day, the prelim day, we had a bye in the last rotation. We had had a good day, but we weren’t sure if we were going to qualify to Super Six. That feeling of not knowing and sitting in the lockers together and then having someone come in and tell us we had done it! Seeing the joy in everyone’s faces and the screams and the tears and the laughs is something that I’ll never forget.
Q: Do you have a funniest memory from SWG?
A: I don’t think I can pick one thing, but all the dance parties we had on the bus or in the locker room. Everything we did we turned into a smile or a joke or a laugh, and I think it’s a really good way to describe the culture of our team. I don’t just have one memory, but when I think of SWG I think of fun and laughter and smiles.
Q: What do you miss most about your time with SWG?
A: I miss the camaraderie and unwavering love and support. We were all going toward one common goal which is something that is really powerful. We were all in, all the time, and we were all there for a reason. You have similar types of things outside of SWG, but it’s never as strong or as powerful. It felt like home. Coming into the gym every day and feeling that sense of comfort.
Q: Do you have any other thoughts or reflections about your particular era with the team?
A: I’m sure that everybody who has been a part of SWG feels like they were very lucky and part of a special era, and I definitely believe that as well. When my class came in, SWG had just missed out on nationals the year before. Coming in, we knew what we wanted to do. We put in absolutely everything. The leadership carried on the rest of my time there and each time, putting in all you had, so you knew at the end of the year you had a sense of accomplishment of doing all you could, no matter how it finished.
Q: How was your time at Stanford?
A: I pretty much loved every moment at Stanford. I was the only biomedical engineering major on my team. Luckily there was another person on the men’s team who was doing it as well and we took as many classes together as we could. I spent a lot of time studying but I loved my classes and loved my professors. I loved the interactions and knowledge that I gained from people in my classes and in my dorms. Stanford is such a special place; everybody has a story. Even though I was dedicated to gymnastics, my roommate was just as dedicated to singing. We had people who were dedicated to dance and philanthropy: everyone had something they were passionate about and something special about them. It kind of puts you in your place because everyone was amazing in their own way. It makes people that much better because you’re working next to somebody who is so smart and you’re trying to keep up or be better than them and it raises the bar for everybody. I can’t imagine another place where it’s like that. There are so many stories and thoughts and feelings that go along with my time at Stanford that I can’t even put them into words. It was a privilege and I hope everyone at Stanford realizes what they have.
Q: Can you tell us about your experience with the biomed program at Stanford and your experience with grad school and your internship?
A: One of the amazing things about Stanford engineering compared to other programs around the country is the amount of hands-on experience you get. My two favorite classes both included time in the manufacturing and cadaver labs and the results were products you could hold in your hand, not just problem sets you turned in or papers you wrote. One of the two, medical device design, even introduced me to a member of the faculty of the Stanford hospital. He proposed a real problem he faces in surgery and asked us to come up with a solution. It was great to gain that connection and to work with a group of people to make something he could potentially use. My experiences in the biomechanics program set me up really well for my time in Melbourne; I only had to complete one year of study instead of two because I had already covered the intense engineering concepts that the degree required. Going to Melbourne allowed me to expand on the knowledge I gained at Stanford and one of the best parts of my studying there was seeing Stanford professors and their research named in my classes; it just served to remind me how renowned our school is. I am thankful that I got to go abroad for this time, it was pretty eye opening.
When I got back to the United States I was lucky to get an internship with Intuitive Surgical in Sunnyvale. They design robots for minimally invasive surgery and I was able to get in with the clinical development team in part because of the lab experience I had at Stanford. Because of the all-encompassing nature of the program, I was able to talk to surgeons and engineers alike, and help bridge the gap between them.