James Madison University

CSD Student is Running Her Way to Success

By: Lori News
Posted: March 19, 2015

PHOTO:Cross country team

For junior Communication Science and Disorders major, Kathleen Stewart, this year seems to be her time to shine.

Stewart was recognized for her academic and athletic achievements last semester when she earned president’s list honors, and was named to the CAA All-Academic Team for her success on the JMU cross country team. She also earned All-CAA status at the 2014 CAA Championships in Boston for finishing third out of 90 runners, ultimately leading JMU to third place as a team.

Coming from a family of runners, the Pennsylvania native came to JMU with aspirations of joining the cross country and track and field teams. With cross country taking place in the fall and track competing in the winter and spring, Stewart trains year-round.

“It was definitely something that I wanted to be a part of my college experience because I love running and competing so much and it’s just a huge part of who I am,” Stewart said.

As a student athlete with a demanding workload and practice schedule, Stewart is kept busy. After her alarm goes off at 6:45am, she makes her way to track practice, attends classes, fits in a second workout and spends any chance she gets studying.

“It’s a huge time commitment so I like to stay ahead and on top of things and just make sure I’m always managing my time,” she said. “I keep really organized so I plan out everything I need to do each day.”

Stewart spends a lot of her study time in the Athletic Performance Center making to-do lists and notecards for her classes. She also finds rewriting her notes to be very helpful when studying for a test. With graduate school in mind, she hopes to be prepared for the next step in pursuing her career goals after graduation.

“I study really hard and just try to make sure I know the information so when it comes time for the test I did everything I could and hopefully it goes well,” she said.

According to Dave Rinker, JMU’s head cross country coach and assistant track coach, the cross country team had a collective 3.7 GPA last fall. He believes Stewart and the rest of the team do a great job balancing academics and athletics.

“She is extremely driven to be the best she can be in all areas of her life,” Rinker said. “All coaches in every sport are smarter when they have athletes like Kathleen in their program. They make us look good.”

For Stewart, the hardest part about balancing her academic and athletic commitments is having enough free time for other things. Outside of classes and practices, Stewart makes it a priority to spend time with her roommates and volunteer at local organizations. Last semester she enjoyed attending dances and game nights hosted by Harrisonburg’s The Arc, which “promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

When asked what keeps her going despite her heavy workload and intense training six days a week, Stewart says she enjoys the mental and physical aspect of running and how challenging it can be. Stewart also explains that she naturally enjoys learning and she finds all her classes to be very interesting.

After graduation, Stewart hopes to participate in marathons and plans to travel the country and accomplish her goal of running a race in every state. “I want to keep running until I’m 90-years-old and I can’t run anymore,” she said.

Although Stewart has another year to consider what she would like to pursue in graduate school, she said, “I’ve started to think about being in a clinical or hospital setting doing speech pathology, but that’s what I like about CSD, it’s very broad and you can go into a lot of different areas of focus. I’m also interested in learning about little kids and early language development and early interventions.”

According to Vicki Reed, Stewart’s advisor and CSD professor, “Kathleen is not only a bright student undertaking an extraordinarily demanding major, which is reflected in her GPA, she is a committed student who understands the importance of putting in the time and effort needed for her to excel in her courses.”

Stewart’s advice to other students on how to excel in academics while balancing other responsibilities is to “stay organized and prepare as best you can in advance and study a little bit each day.”