This is the fifth feature in a series of guest posts featuring many women from the Strong Runner Chicks community. Here at Strong Runner Chicks we welcome individuals of all walks of life. To highlight this we asked our community to send us Days in their Lives.
Kristin is a 26-year-old Academic Counselor within the Athletic Department at Wake Forest University. She completed her English Masters degree there while running for the Cross Country and Track teams as a graduate student.
Before Wake Forest, Kristin majored in English and Psychology at the University of Connecticut, where she ran for the club team. She is particularly passionate about working with student-athletes and is a huge fan of the sport of Track & Field. Her goals are to someday race a marathon competitively and to visit every bakery in the state of North Carolina.
Today Kirstin shares with us a Day in Her Life. Follow along to hear how Kirsten embodies the Strong Runner Chicks mission in her everyday life!
Hello! My name is Kristin Weisse, and my running “journey” has been anything but conventional but has played a huge role in shaping all facets of my life, including my relationships and my current career; I’m excited to share my story with you all.
Like most, I started off playing other sports; running for me was sprinting across the soccer field or diving for shots on the tennis court. To stay in shape between seasons, I began jogging a mile loop every day after school (wearing Adidas three-stripe shoes, which were most certainly not meant for running). I soon realized that my little sister was a much more gifted all-around athlete, and in fear or her making the varsity soccer team before myself, I spontaneously decided to join the cross country squad. Though I wasn’t particularly quick, I pretty quickly fell in love with the pasta parties, trail runs, relays, & track workouts, and I transitioned into running year-round. However, I was never a very impressive runner in high school, and had modest PR’s of 5:55 in the mile and 21:56 in the 5k (I was stubbornly convinced at the time that I was a mid-distance runner).
When I arrived at the University of Connecticut, I joined the running club as a way to make friends. College is where I really started to become more serious about running; our club team practiced regularly and traveled multiple times a year. My best friends were my running club teammates, and the highlight of my day was sitting in the dining hall for hours with them post-workout. The camaraderie on this team was unreal; we even ran some overnight Ragnar Relays together. As the daunting thought of graduating college approached, I started Googling whether it’d be possible to participate in athletics as a graduate student, as I couldn’t imagine my life without running or without a team. When I decided to attend Wake Forest University’s English Masters program, I emailed the distance coach on a whim; and sure enough, he let me walk onto the team as the “old lady rookie,” as I technically had a fifth year of NCAA eligibility. I learned so much during my one year as a division one runner and ran times I would have never dreamed of in high school. But most importantly, I met some of my closest friends and discovered my present career path.
After my year as a collegiate runner for WFU, I knew that I wanted to remain involved with the team and with athletics in general, but I wasn’t entirely sure how or in what capacity. Luckily for me, I (literally) ran into a former Wake Forest runner and the school’s current Student-Athlete Development director in the campus XC trails, who just so happened to be looking for an intern. Thanks to this fateful encounter, I spent my second year of graduate school interning part-time for the athletic department at Wake Forest and loving every second of it.
Student-Athlete Development encompasses career development, community service, and character development, and our main goal in the department was to help athletes grow outside of their sport. As much as I valued these areas of development, I’ve always been extra passionate about academics. Therefore, I became intrigued by the role of the academic counselors who I met in the athletic department at WFU. I spent a year after graduate school continuing to work some part-time jobs on campus and getting my foot in the door, and luckily for me, my patience paid off, and I landed my dream job: I was accepted a role as an academic counselor for the Men’s and Women’s Track/XC teams, the Men’s Golf team, and the Cheer/Dance squad at Wake Forest University.
I am now in my second year working in my position as an academic counselor, and to say that I love my job would be an understatement. My office hours are usually filled with both planned and unscheduled meetings, which gives me the ability to interact with the athletes and coaches on a personal, one-on-one basis. I especially value my work in that I get to work with runners (and to therefore draw on my love for the sport), while also helping them to look at the bigger picture beyond athletics- aka, to explore other passions and to prepare for the future, while also encouraging them to appreciate just how many opportunities college student-athletes are blessed with. Wake Forest is a very demanding school academically, and a huge part of my job entails helping the athletes balance their athletic commitments with academic demands.
The title of this column is “A Day in the Life,” and very fittingly, I’m often asked what I a day in my job is like. In my opinion, the coolest part is that it changes significantly depending on the time of year and even the day, which prevents monotony or boredom. My office hours are from 8:30AM to 5PM Monday through Friday (which sounds pretty standard), although I feel like I’m pretty immersed in the job at almost all times, including weekends.
When my teams are on campus, my days are generally spent meeting with students-athletes to discuss their grades and their classes, talking with campus partners, running reports, attending staff meetings, meeting with recruits, adjusting tutor schedules, and so forth. Wake Forest University is a small school with an 11:1 faculty to student ratio, so I work pretty closely with professors and different departments on campus such as the Learning Assistance Center, the Office of Academic Advising, and the Registrar’s Office.
The time of year very much determines the schedule of events for that day. For instance, the past two weeks were what’s called the “registration period” at Wake Forest, where students register for classes in two rounds. Therefore, the bulk of these weeks was spent helping my athletes create their class schedules for the spring semester and ensuring that they’re on track to graduate and fulfill the requirements they need to stay academically eligible and to complete their majors and minors. We also have to pay close attention to class times given the team’s practice schedules, which can make scheduling a lot trickier than it would be for the average student.
One particular duty that takes up a large part of my day is my work as a tutor coordinator; I put together athletes’ tutor schedules (across all teams) and educate our tutors on NCAA rules. At Wake Forest, we use a newly designed computer system to match athletes with tutors and to adjust their schedules as needed throughout the year. Moreover, all academic counselors in our department have other unique duties that we’re in charge of.
For instance, I run a group called Athletes in Medicine which consists of student-athletes interested in the medical profession. This group meets monthly to discuss how to balance the demands of athletics with the rigors of lab classes and the pre-med requirements. In addition, I run daily reports for our office (such as class schedules, transcripts, registration rosters) and I created and manage our department’s social media account, DevelopingDeacs. Aside from daily meetings with student-athletes, my favorite part of the job is talking with recruits and their parents and to show them what Study Hall looks like and to explain all of the academic resources available to student-athletes.
The job is extremely social, and I believe in the importance of getting to know the student-athletes as more than just runners or throwers or jumpers or golfers (and so forth) but as whole, well-rounded people. Summers are generally more relaxed, but we always have student-athletes on campus for summer school, so the job keeps me busy year round (and allows me to help a bit more other teams during the summer months).
If I did have to describe a typical day, it would usually start with a 5:50AM wake-up call for a morning run. Now that it’s dark and cold in the mornings, I sometimes instead take advantage of the campus gym to cross-train, as I’m not a huge fan of running in the cold (I’m very much missing humid summer mornings!) Because I live less than 10 minutes from campus, I’ll drive to campus to work out and then drive home to get ready for the day and eat breakfast (I’m a diva about my morning routine, and I have to eat a giant breakfast or I’ll be in a bad mood all day). I head back to campus for 8:30AM (the joys of a short commute), and the first hour of work generally entails responding to emails and checking in with my supervisor about the priorities for the day.
From there, the next few hours are filled for the most part with meetings. I get an hour lunch break, and I sometimes go for a short shakeout run during lunch if I’m looking to add some mileage (my office is located right above the track and next to the campus’s XC trails which is extremely convenient). Afternoons in the office are generally a bit quieter, as my teams usually practice at this time. This allows me to catch up on adjusting tutor schedules, checking in with tutors, updating our social media, and responding to more emails (the emails never seem to end!). I also talk with parents pretty frequently, both of current and prospective athletes. Unless it’s a busy time of year or we have some kind of event happening in the evening, I generally leave the office around 5PM or5:30PM and will either go to a class at the Y (body pump is my favorite), go grocery shopping, or catch up with friends. I do one more round of email responses around 7 or 8PM and then make dinner and go to bed, usually around 10PM. I always have a bowl of cereal before bed because I’m addicted. I refer to it as a “bowl of happiness”- usually a mix of multiple different cereals, nut butters, nuts, fruits, and chocolate (yes, chocolate is an acceptable cereal topping). I also love to read before I go to sleep (my nerdy inner English major), but I also love to scroll through Twitter, Instagram, and my guilty pleasure LetsRun.
My job often does requires that I work on weekends in order to meet with recruits who are visiting campus. As I previously mentioned, this is one of my favorite parts, as I get to brag about all of the amazing resources that Wake Forest offers. On weekends when I’m not meeting with recruits, however, I often travel to road races across the state of North Carolina (which is also a great excuse to meet up with friends and to explore new bakeries, one of my favorite hobbies). In the winter, I also pick up hours working at JDL Fast Track, an indoor track facility in Winston-Salem. One of the highlights of the weekend is theSunday morning long run with Salem Track Club, a newly formed track club in town. We’re already mapping out a race schedule for the Spring, and it’s been refreshing to have a group to run with consistently; it’s also certainly helped fill the void of no longer being on a team!
A part of my job that I love is that it grants the flexibility to run at a somewhat serious level, but at the same time it helps prevents me from becoming too immersed in or obsessive about running, something I’ve definitely struggled with in the past. During my first summer of post-collegiate running, I overdid it with mileage and ended up injured on and off for about a year and a half. I thought (dramatically) at that point that I might never run again, but this year I’ve actually run a few PR’s (including a blue jean mile, which I would highly recommend). My hours aren’t so demanding that I have to completely sacrifice running competitively, but at the same time there are certain times of year that force me to put running on the back-burner and to cut back drastically. November has proven to be one of those times, and it’s been a continuous learning experience to sacrifice running and cross training as much as I’d like in order to be the best I can be in my job. As much as I still love running, I’m finding that the most rewarding and joyful parts of my life are the ability to help the athletes that I work and to share in their successes and achievements, both on and off the track or the course. The student-athletes that I work with constantly inspire me, and I think the fact that I was once in their shoes truly helps me to appreciate their own experiences and struggles.
Therefore, I would encourage anyone who’s passionate about working with student-athletes in a collegiate environment to look into jobs within Student-Athlete Services, Development, and so forth. Before I came to graduate school, I did not even know that such careers existed, but to go to work every day and love what I do is something that I try very hard not to take for granted. Regardless of your passion, it is in fact possible to make it into a viable career path. If you have any questions about this line of work, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com!
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