Lauren Cuddihy is a current member of UAA’s track and field team.
With fall graduation underway, many graduates are planning for their futures and sorting out plans, similar to what the previous May 2017 graduates already did. Many of UAA’s sports teams lost a significant portion of their athletes. However, life moves on after an athlete’s collegiate career.
A former member of the UAA track and field and cross-country teams, Jesse Miller graduated with a degree in civil engineering. Post-graduation, Miller has been able to reflect back on the pros and cons of graduating college as a student-athlete.
“The best thing about being done with athletics and school for me was the chance to start a new chapter in my life. Competing at UAA was an amazing experience,” Miller said. “After five years, I knew that it was time to take my degree and start molding a new identity for myself, as well as take time to reflect on how I wanted to continue pursuing accomplishments in running.”
It was a bittersweet ending for Miller, as he had to leave behind a lot of important aspects of his life.
“My coaches and teammates became my family, and it was hard to transition into… not seeing them and interacting with them six days a week and on competition trips. But I still maintain the friendships that I have made and have become adjusted to a different routine,” Miller said.
Miller is now working as a junior engineer at Stephl Engineering in Anchorage. He still tries to remain active in the running community.
“I have also been working on getting a good relationship with sports,” Miller said, “I still aspire to be a good runner but have been focusing on enjoying it more than anything. I have also started branching out into other sports like rock climbing and skiing.”
After four years of academic and athletic work, Miller knows a thing or two about being successful in college sports.
“I say this all the time to the kids that I get to coach at my old high school,” Miller said. “Winning and chasing personal bests is rewarding, but focusing on this all the time can and usually will make you sick. You have to remember that this is the sport you love, and that you enjoy competing and getting after it everyday with your teammates.”
Curtis McKillop graduated in May 2017 with his degree in management, after four years of competing on UAA’s alpine ski team. Similar to most collegiate athletes, McKillop found that the transition out of collegiate sports was fairly difficult.
“[I came to] the realization that I had to give up a sport that I have been doing since I was 3 years old,” McKillop said. “Of course, I am still going to recreationally ski, but not ski race competitively anymore. It’s a hard adjustment, like I lost part of what defines me as a person. [Now I have] the opportunity to focus my time onto other passions of mine, my family and my personal relationships.
In his transition out of ski racing, McKillop is currently working as a leasing assistant for a commercial real estate brokerage.
“It’s not glamorous, but it’s giving me experience and time to reflect on what I really want to do professionally moving forward in my career,” McKillop said.
If he could speak to current college-athletes, McKillop would vouch for getting as many diverse experiences as possible, allowing for those chances to reflect on what they want to do.
“Join clubs, be social, make connections and appreciate the opportunity to perform sport and school at the same time,” McKillop said. “It’s easy to waste time and only stay in the athlete circle. I encourage them to meet new people outside of their common social groups because there are so many amazing people.”
Kiki Robertson, former UAA women’s basketball guard, played an incredibly successful four years at UAA before graduating. Robertson was awarded with Great Northwest Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, D2CCA Second Team All-West Region and a fourth straight Second Team All-GNAC honor in her final season.
With a never-ending love for basketball, Robertson decided to continue her athletic career by traveling to play professionally in Germany, before eventually shifting gears to become a pediatric nurse.
A similar reaction to many of the other graduated students, Robertson appreciated the relaxation and free time she experiences how that she isn’t in school.
“[The] best thing would definitely be not having deadlines and stress from procrastination,” Robertson said. “[The] worst thing is that I don’t get to see or be around my close friends that I’ve made in and outside of basketball.”
Robertson’s advice for those still in college is to enjoy each moment.
“If I had to change one thing it would be focusing on myself more and spending it with my friends as much as I could, not worrying about other people or relationships. Because after college you’re more of an adult and you don’t get to see your friends as often because everyone is starting their lives and have jobs,” Robertson said.
Athletes are eligible for four years of play in their collegiate careers, allowing for a wide variety of experiences in and out of the classroom.