The date is Thursday, Nov. 3 and the hour is late, and somewhere on the Valparaiso University campus there is a high-achieving student – a member of Christ College, Valpo’s honors college – putting the finishing touches on a class assignment.
In some ways, this night was no different than many others for Nikki Coryell – a double major in accounting and sport management who boasts a 3.96 cumulative grade point average. Sure, this night wasn’t easy, as Coryell is a star goalkeeper for the Valpo women’s soccer team, which had just a few hours earlier seen its glowing season come to a heartbreaking end with a 1-0 loss to Murray State in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinal. But the commitment to greatness both academically and athletically drove Coryell right back to the books, where she finished out her CC-325 “Why Am I Here?” assignment in a timely manner.
This story epitomizes the work put in by 17 Valpo student-athletes who are part of Christ College – the nation’s third oldest honors college – as they navigate the delicate balance between rigorous majors, Division-I athletics and the time demands associated with Christ College.
“All of the professors here at Valpo do a great job of supporting their athletes,” Coryell said. “They follow along and come out to our games. It was definitely an adjustment my freshman year, which is the most rigorous in the Christ College program, but it set me up well down the line where I feel like I am able to take on more and prioritize everything I’m doing. It is beneficial for anyone who is looking for a challenge.”
When discussing Valpo student-athletes who excel both in the athletic and academic realms, it’s hard to get very deep into the conversation without mentioning men’s golfer Caleb VanArragon. A member of Christ College, the three-time all-MVC selection and two-time MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year holds a perfect 4.0 GPA with a biology and statistics double major.
“Christ College was one of the biggest factors that drew me to Valpo in the first place,” VanArragon said. “I was really interested in receiving a balanced education, learning not only about biology and statistics, but also the history, philosophy and writing skills taught by Christ College. In Christ College, you are with a group of 70-80 people in your class who you get to know very well, and you’re in at least one class with them every semester. You build unique relationships, and the faculty members are awesome.”
Not only is men’s track & field and cross country student-athlete William Neupert a mechanical engineering major with a 3.74 GPA, but the Christ College student has also found time to serve in leadership roles on Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) on a campus, conference and national level. His involvement in Valpo SAAC started his sophomore year, as a junior he joined Natalie Graf as Valpo’s representatives on MVC SAAC and this year as a senior he was selected to represent the MVC on DI SAAC for the NCAA.
“I take a lot of pride in representing all of the student-athletes in the conference and trying to do so as well as I can,” Neupert said. “Prior to SAAC, I had not done much public speaking and advocation, so this has been a great opportunity for me to expand my skillset.”
Neupert praised the support system at Valpo as coaches are supportive of academic rigor and professors are supportive of athletic time demands.
“Something with Christ College that really helps me is the sense of community,” Neupert said. “You talk to other people in Christ College and you have that community to rely on when you have work to do. That makes it really rewarding to go to class.”
When Sophie Morelock made her college decision, the opportunity to be a part of the swim team and Christ College were two of the biggest factors in choosing Valpo. The psychology major who boasts a 3.84 cumulative GPA is now a senior, and looks back knowing that she made the right decision.
“My coach (Maggie Kroemer) is very big on academics coming first and making sure that we are being responsible with our time,” Morelock said. “The athletic department as a whole really encourages student-athletes to stay involved with our academic progress. We have advisors who know each one of us and care about our schedule for the next semester, our grades and how we’re balancing our time demands. In Christ College, the professors know you. You’re not just a number, you’re a person. That makes you more accountable, and it also humanizes you and shows that your learning has a purpose. Learning from a Valpo professor is a relationship, not just a conversation between two strangers.”
The student-athletes across sports have created unique bonds with their Christ College peers who can relate to the time management skills required to excel in an honors college while doing the same in athletic competition. VanArragon has gotten to know Noelle Doody from the bowling team through Christ College courses. Coryell has shared the experience with Garner Jones from football. Neupert was encouraged to try CC by former track & field student-athlete Sarah Messerschmidt. Morelock has taken numerous courses with Natalie Graf and Elizabeth Park from the soccer team.
“There’s a bond among the student-athletes in Christ College because we all know that it’s hard to manage and we’re doing a lot,” Coryell said. “Another big advantage is getting to meet people outside of athletics and develop shared experiences with students from a variety of different majors.”
Each of the 17 student-athletes in Christ College have their own unique stories to tell, and together that forms a broader story about what makes this athletic department – and this University – so special.
“CC students can be found in leadership roles in all facets of campus life,” Christ College Interim Dean Jennifer Prough said. “In particular, our student-athletes bring a level of dedication and discipline to all they do. They are an important part of our honors community, and we are proud to support them so they can excel at all of their goals while at Valpo and beyond.”
Valpo Student-Athletes in Christ College
Noelle Doody, Biology, Bowling
Natalie Graf, Chemistry/Biology, Soccer
Demi Jhaveri, Digital Media, Tennis
Sophie Morelock, Psychology, Swimming
William Neupert, Mechanical Engineering, Cross Country/Track & Field
Elizabeth Park, Chemistry/Biology, Soccer
Caleb VanArragon, Biology/Statistics, Golf
Grace Aurand, Political Science/English, Cross Country/Track & Field
Nikki Coryell, Accounting/Sport Management, Soccer
Simeon Ehm, Environmental Engineering, Cross Country/Track & Field
Garner Jones, Marketing, Football
Joely Overstreet, Civic Engineering/Mathematics, Cross Country/Track & Field
Isabella Palamaro, Civic Engineering, Bowling
Elizabeth Roeglin, Psychology/Biology, Cross Country/Track & Field
Peyton Evans, Business, Soccer
Lilu Smith, Computer Science, Bowling
Amelia Tandy, Global Studies: IECA, Track & Field