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Going Pro: Talented student-athletes prepare for engineering, science careers

Tayler Rigsby is a senior geosciences major with a 3.38 grade point average.
Tayler Rigsby is a senior geosciences major with a 3.38 grade point average.

April 26, 2010

Tulsa, Oklahoma -

Special feature provided to TulsaHurricane.com from the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, written by Amethyst Cavallaro . . .

A college athlete has a full-time job, with grueling practices, extensive travel and the pressure of performing in the spotlight.

Athletes in the TU College of Engineering and Natural Sciences also thrive in one of the most challenging math and science curricula in the region. The following engineering and science majors have managed to achieve highly on the court and field as well as in the classroom.

Tayler Rigsby, a 10-time letterwinner in track from Tulsa, competes in the 800-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter events. A senior geosciences major with extensive research experience, she has been chosen for the TU Athletic Director's Honor Roll and C-USA All-Academic selection.

How does she do it all? "Lists. Lots of to-do lists," Rigsby said. "I have to plan my day by the minute."

However, she won't take credit for it all. Her professors have been flexible for exams when she's traveling, and her coaches adjust her practice times if she has a lab that requires more time.

Even though spring is the busiest time for track, Rigsby participated in the 2010 TU Research Colloquium and has received a grant to extend her research project thanks to encouragement from Bryan Tapp, chair of the geosciences department.

"Dr. Tapp's mentorship is a major part of believing in myself academically," Rigsby said. "I have fans at the meets cheering me on, but it's different in school. I need a coach there too, and he's been that influence in my academic life."

It's been an amazing ride for Hunter Christiansen, a starting midfielder on the men's soccer team and a junior mechanical engineering major from Denton, Texas.

He has helped the Golden Hurricane win three Conference USA championships three years in a row. This season, the team made it to the Elite 8 and earned its place as one of the best collegiate soccer teams in the nation.

With the team's post-season success and extended travel schedule, his course load has been a serious challenge. Christiansen said he has felt the strain on his classes, but "not once have I regretted choosing my major."

He chose mechanical engineering because he likes to know how everything works and why, and hopes to use it in aerospace engine design. He knows the struggle he has now in balancing soccer and school will pay off later.

"Future employers will notice that I have the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities and that I have the capability to work well in a team," Christiansen said. "Having the opportunity to represent my school on the playing field is an honor" and he hopes to represent TU just as well in his professional career.

It would have been easier to take a less demanding academic load, but Will Sanger, a junior geophysics major on the men's basketball team from Woodinville, Washington, knows the value of his degree.

"I wanted something career-specific and something that will help me travel," Sanger said. "I hope to work in the consulting geophysics field and analyze construction projects around the world."

As a Presidential Scholar, Sanger came to TU for its reputation as a small, private university with prestigious academic programs. He walked-on to the men's basketball team his freshman year and feels pride in being part of the team's transformation during his time at TU.

Last summer, he participated in a Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC) project with Kumar Ramachandran, assistant professor of geosciences. He studied how to analyze geologic formations 25 km deep using 800,000 data points.

"Working in the geosciences lab, I can ask professors questions about structural geography and get a knowledgeable response from an expert who will take the time to explain it to me," he said.

A rising tennis star from Quebec, Canada, and a sophomore biochemistry major, Caroline Beaulieu has a winning record on and off the court.

She won the Blue 3 Singles flight title at the Memphis Invitational in 2009 and was a perfect 5-0 in doubles during the duel season. She has a 3.63 GPA in biochemistry and plans to attend pharmacy school when she graduates.

"It requires a lot of time, organization and discipline to fit school and tennis in my schedule and perform well, but it is an awesome opportunity," she said.

She chose TU because she loved the campus, wanted a private school with an outstanding tennis program and felt welcomed by her teammates and classmates.

"Being a student-athlete in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences requires a lot of time and important sacrifices, but I think it's a really good opportunity," she said. "I can get all the education I need to continue further on in my life in a great environment while having the chance to play my favorite sport and live great life experiences."