The Decree - February 2020 - PDF Flipbook

February 2020 Decree

PDF 0 Bytes

Download as PDF


The Decree since 1960 “of, by, and for the Wesleyan community.”

February 21, 2020

N O R T H C A R O L I N A W E S L E YA N C O L L E G E , R O C K Y M O U N T, N O R T H C A R O L I N A 2 7 8 0 4

Clark To Seek Second Term as President

Thomas Clark will run for a second term as president of Wesleyan’s Student Government Association, he said in early February. At that time, he was the only announced candidate, according to Elliot Smith, the director of Student Activities and an advisor to SGA. A quarterback on the Bishops football team, Clark is a double major in criminal justice and history. Following graduation, he hopes to coach high school football for a year before he enters the Marine Officer Candidates School. “From there,” he said. “I hope to be a ground intelligence officer in the Marine Corps and lead Marines on the ground.” When he was 11, Clark and his family moved from Virginia Beach to Cape Carteret. He spent one year in Austin, Texas, where he played 6A high school football. During the past three years, he has been active on campus in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Christ Covenant Ministries. The SGA executive board includes Clark, Vice President K J Jefferson, Secretary Rebecca Mitchell, Treasurer Tim Marinos and Parliamentarian James Cheazar. The Decree interviewed Clark about his time in SGA: Q. Do you think playing football helps or hurts in your position as SGA President? A. I believe it’s good to do both. One great feature of the SGA executive board is the diversity. Each member can relate to and reach out to a different group of students on campus. This helps us in our efforts to hear every student’s voice. In my case playing football makes it easier for me to reach out to a large portion of students on campus. Q. Describe a typical day last fall when you were both a backup quarterback and president of SGA. A. I’d wake up by 5:30 a.m. and go through my normal morning routine of showering, etc. I’d have class from 8 to 12:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and then a class from 9:40 to 11:10 and 2:40 to 4:10 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some days I would have quarterback meetings between classes. Following my classes, I’d go to football practice at 4 and would get out between 6:30 and 7. From there I’d eat dinner, or, if there was an SGA meeting that Thursday, I’d leave practice early to prepare for that. After dinner I’d go back to my room, do my homework, and then prepare for bed and my next day. I’d turn in around midnight. Q. What’s been your focus as president of SGA? A. My first priority was improving the quality of the food and service in the cafeteria. When I first took office, another huge initiative was getting the new constitution passed. While we’re continuing to make progress with food, this semester we’re trying to address other campus improvements, especially in residence life. Q. Let’s take each initiative one by one. Could you expand on your work with the cafeteria? A. The list could drag on about cafeteria issues. From portion sizes, to poor quality, to lack of diverse options, the caf was a huge concern last semester. We also had certain issues with food stations and drink machines not being changed and with overall poor experiences in the caf. This semester we’ve seen improvement, and steps are being taken to continue enhancements. Next we’re looking at hours of operation, more frequent surveys, new food options, and a to-go option. Q. What was done with the SGA constitution? A. There were lots of minor changes that were made. But the main focus was to clear up ambiguities and vagueness in the old constitution. There was an increase in pay for executive board members and some protections were added for representatives who miss meetings. Some by-laws were removed and some requirements for holding certain positions were loosened. We wanted to make it easier to become a member of SGA in hopes of increasing participation. Q And as far as residence life? A. We’re still gathering information on how we can improve in this

area. We’re looking for small ways to contribute to better living arrangements and other campus improvements to boost the quality of student life outside the classroom. We’re open to suggestions. Q. What would you say is your administration’s most meaningful accomplishment(s) so far? A. Making progress in the cafeteria and fixing a lot of the issues there as well as passing the new constitution have been huge accomplishments. Much credit goes to my team. They’ve made my job a lot easier. Q. What’s been most challenging about the job? A. Balancing my different responsibilities has been a challenge. It’s hard to make my schedule match that of many leaders of our campus. While the job is somewhat time consuming, football also takes a lot of my time and energy, as does my schoolwork, of course. It’s been hard working it out, but I’ve really been enjoying the experience, so it’s all worth it.

A. I’d like to continue improving the cafeteria and enhance residence life and student life on campus overall. I’d also want to set the stage for a smooth transition to whoever succeeds me in the presidency. Q. Why should your peers vote you back into office? A. I care about our students and issues pertaining to student life on campus. I’ve worked hard to make improvements and I’ve listened to the voices of the student body. I believe my leadership skills and my personality give the student government a solid foundation to continue doing good work. Smith said that interested candidates may apply to run for SGA offices by contacting him in the Student Activities Office. The application deadline is February 28. The campaigning will begin in early March, and on-line voting will take place from March 12 to 19.

Junior guard Kayla Johnson leads the second-place Bishops into the USA South Conference tournament. See sports coverage on page 3. SI photo

Wesleyan Friends Helped Strausser Cope with Tragedy

Q. What’s one specific area where you can improve as president? A. I’d like to become more involved with clubs, one-on-one, and attend more events that clubs sponsor on campus. I want the clubs to know that I care about them. I’m invested in how well they do. Q. What’s one change you’d like to see in the student body? A. Student involvement is a struggle at times, especially when it comes to SGA. It would be nice to see more students get involved with our organization as well as the many great clubs we have at Wesleyan. Q. If you’re reelected, what would be your main goals in a second term?

By Will Plyler Decree Staff Writer Every Monday at 8 p.m., a group of Wesleyan students meet in the Wesleyan chapel. The brick walls reverberate with the combined sounds of a guitar, a piano, a cajon drum, and at least two dozen voices singing along. The low-lighted chandeliers and strands of lightbulbs that hang from the ceiling fuel the joy and poignancy of the moment. This is a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Their president is senior and history major Joshua Strausser. Strausser, 22, combines his love for music with his love for sports at FCA, where he preaches, and sings and plays on the worship team. He is rarely found here without his distinctive grin on his face. Strausser has also performed for three years with the Spectrum Popular Music Ensemble. In April, he will be the first student to graduate with Wesleyan’s new music production minor. The Decree met Strausser for an interview in the Taylor Center conference room. “I kind of miss this room,” Strausser said as he found a seat at the table. During Strausser’s freshman and sophomore years, FCA met here as a group with three or four members. Today, FCA has outgrown the conference room, and its 30-plus members have their weekly meetings in the chapel. In his four years here at Wesleyan, FCA has helped Strausser face a great deal of challenges, not the least of which was the death of his mother in 2018. The room full of trophy cases and retired

sports jerseys seemed a fitting place for Strausser’s interview as he began to share his story. Strausser grew up in Claremont, the middle of three triplets. Along with his brother, Lee, and sister, Erica, Strausser attended Bandys High School in Catawaba. His father, Eric, drives a truck for Tyson Foods, and his late mother, Lori, owned a hair salon. A lover of sports, Strausser played football, wrestled, and competed in shotput and discus at Bandys. His mother used to come to all his games and ring a cowbell. “The thing is, she didn’t know anything about football,” Strausser mused. “Even though I played for like 10 years...she used to cheer when the other team did something good and we’d have to turn around and be like ‘Mom, no.’” He came to NC Wesleyan in 2016 to play defensive tackle. During his freshman year, he sustained two football injuries: a concussion during training, and a foot injury in one of the first games of the season. The latter sidelined him for the rest of the year. Over the following summer, Strausser became disenchanted with the competitive nature of college sports. “It’s not the same feeling as Friday-night football,” he said, remembering how he was usually too worried about which players were better than him to really enjoy playing. This anxiety, combined with his injuries, led him to decide not to play football his sophomore year. Without sports taking up his time, Strausser turned his attention to his love for music. He had begun playing the acoustic guitar

Having just completed her undergraduate degree in Wesleyan’s adult-degree program, Melanie Mager intends to take a short break and then continue her education by enrolling in the school’s new online MBA. A Georgia native and now a resident of Rocky Mount, the 50-year-old Mager completed her BS degree with a double major in business administration and organizational administration. The Decree interviewed Mager just before her graduation in December. Q. Many APS students attended a traditional four-year school right after high school and then, for various reasons, had to withdraw. What’s your story? A. I did attend college when I first enlisted in the Air Force, and I completed some coursework after that. But family obligations, small children and a husband consumed me. I wanted to enjoy every moment of the kids’ childhood, so I put everything else on the back burner. Q. What attracted you to the Wesleyan Adult and Professional Studies program? A. I started at Wesleyan (in August 2017) due to the convenient location and class schedules. Q. What did you like most about the NCWC program overall? A. The professors! I’ve had some great ones. Q. What’s one specific change you would make in the program? A. I would change the drop policy. You should have the ability to drop a class after the official "drop date" when you have a true, validated, and verifiable emergency situation. Q. What was that first semester like when you began at NCWC?

A. Learning how to write papers again–– Dear Lord, it had been a while! When I saw all of the required writing-intensive classes, I almost backed away. Obviously, I changed my mind and pressed forward. Q. What attracted you to your majors? A. A business administration degree increased opportunities with my current employer. Q. What was your favorite class at Wesleyan? A. I’ve had many classes that I thoroughly enjoyed, but Economics II and Statistics were my two favorites. Q. Elaborate on your current job and career plans. A. I’m a medical/commercial property manager (NC Real Estate Broker) with Lillibridge Healthcare Services. I oversee annual budgets, quarterly re-forecasts, and monthly reports; bid, award, and manage capital projects; manage procurement directives within my portfolio; manage personnel; maintain tenant satisfaction; and perform many other duties for about 300,000 square feet located in three counties. Q. What challenges did you face in earning your degree? A. Oh my, from September 2018 through August 2019 was a doozie of a time for this old gal; “a trying time” is an understatement. In September 2018 I had a colonoscopy and my colon was punctured, landing me in ICU for a couple of days. Then in October, Hurricane Michael hit the panhandle of Florida; that’s where I grew up and my family still lives. They were devastated. My sister lost a home, there was no power for three months, and my dad's pacemaker/defibrillator couldn't

be monitored by his cardiologist. I made multiple supply trips there for my family, the community, and all of the animals suddenly displaced, lost, and homeless. If that wasn’t enough, a man broke into my house the following May. I arrived home before the authorities and was confronted by the intruder. He was apprehended, charged with two felonies, and released that same day; and yes, he ran. We later found out that he was on federal probation for illegal trafficking of firearms. It was scary. He stalked my house for a while, but he’s now serving time at a federal penitentiary. A month later I blew my L5 (lumbar vertebrae) picking up a 45-bottle case of water at Sam's Club and had to have emergency surgery––no physical therapy or injections for me. I did a number on the old thing. I finally was released to return to work August 26th and all is well. Even through all of the trials and tribulations, I still recognize that my blessings far outweigh my hardships. Q. How will your degree help you in your career? A. At this point, I'm not really sure. I hope to move up within my current company, but I’ll also be keeping an eye out for opportunities of change and growth. Q. Who will join you at commencement? Tell us about celebrations you’ve planned. A. My husband, Charles Mager, and my youngest child, Colby Silverthorne, will be there. After enduring the Business 482 Capsim final, I’ll probably have a large stiff drink. Honestly!

SGA President Thomas Clark Photo courtesy of Clark campaign

Melanie Mager Persevered to Graduate

when he was 12 years old, but he had “only really played at church” before coming to college. He decided to enroll in Wesleyan’s new music production program during his sophomore year. As part of the program, Strausser joined the popular-music ensemble known as “Spectrum” as a guitarist. Life was good and then, a few months into the school year, Strausser received a phone call that would change his life forever. Strausser’s mother had suffered from heart palpitations for most of her life, having been born with just two working heart valves as opposed to the normal four. In October of 2018, Strausser received a phone call from his brother, Lee, that his mother had been taken to the hospital and that her heart had had to be shocked back into rhythm. He made the three-hour drive home to Claremont that weekend to be with his mother and stayed until the following Tuesday, October 23, when his mother was scheduled to have open-heart surgery. “The doctor said that the surgery went perfectly,” Strausser recalled. But after the surgery, his mother fell into a coma and remained in that condition the rest of the week. Having been away for an extended period, Strausser came back to Wesleyan to resume class on Monday, October 29. It was at a Spectrum rehearsal that afternoon that Strausser received the news: Lori Strausser had flat-lined. He rushed home again, arriving shortly before his mother passed away at 12:30 on the morning of October 30. Strausser remained home with his family until his mother’s funeral on November 2. His friends, Beau Sharpe, Grey Clark, Paul Bunch, and Toby Sharp (all members of FCA), made the trip to attend the funeral. After the funeral, Strausser faced the daunting task of making up for two full weeks of missed classes, but he said the Bishop family offered him a great deal of help. “Wesleyan has good professors,” Strausser said, explaining that his teachers allowed him to push assignment deadlines back so he could catch up. “(Professor) Ross even offered to put an incomplete on (his) course,” he said, “and (let me) finish it next semester.” But Strausser declined the offer. “I put my nose to the grindstone,” he said. “Sitting in a hospital waiting room for 12 hours a day gives you plenty of time to read.” With help from professors and friends, he passed all his classes. Strausser credits his faith for helping in his emotional recovery. “I have a God who never leaves me,” he said, “so I wasn’t an emotional wreck when I came back to school.” He’s also very grateful to have friends by his side. “I have some great friends,” he said, “(and so many) great memories….You should form as many relationships as possible, because you never know when you’ll need their friendship or help.” Strausser will graduate in April with a major in history and minors in music production and English. He hopes to work in music (possibly in live sound), marry his girlfriend of nine months, Natalie Larson, and raise children who serve God. “Everybody needs money,” Strausser said. “But if I can leave an impact on somebody’s life, I’ll be happy. Ultimately, I want to make God proud with my life.”


North Carolina Wesleyan College, Rocky Mount, North Carolina 27804

February 21, 2020


NC Wesleyan Welcomes New Biology Professor to Faculty

Dr. Ami Thompson joined the biology department in January as an assistant professor after earning her doctorate in conservation biology. The Decree prepared the following profile on Wesleyan’s newest full-time faculty member: Hometown: Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Decrees Earned: B.S. in conservation from the University of Wisconsin– River Falls; PhD in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota. Previous Job Experience: I’ve worked as an educator for both the Wisconsin and Minnesota departments of natural resources. I was a national park ranger, and I ran my own environmental education consulting business. I’ve authored six curricula on using nature to inspire science education. Previous Teaching Experience: I’ve been teaching science and biology in one way or another since my first high school internship at a nature center in 1997. Areas of Specialization: Generally, I’m an ecologist because I study the interactions between living and non-living things. My passion is for freshwater ecosystems and I have a particular fondness for dragonflies. My dissertation is a description of the natural history of the common green darner dragonfly (Anax junius) in Minnesota. Courses You’ll Teach at Wesleyan:

This semester I’m teaching Conservation Biology, Biology 101, and Methods in Biology. I anticipate I’ll be teaching ecology, and perhaps a few other to-be-determined courses. What Attracted You to Wesleyan: I wanted to teach at small college where I could get to know my students as individuals. After interviewing here, I felt confident I would have that opportunity at Wesleyan. I also discovered that I’d have kind, intelligent, and supportive colleagues. What about North Carolina Most Appeals to You: So many amazing habitats to explore––from mountains to ocean! I’ve been visiting a new state park every weekend. What You’ll Miss Most about the Upper-Midwest: I already miss my Minnesota friends and family, of course. I’ll miss winter sports; I love cross-country skiing and I was learning to ice skate. I’ll also miss hiking along the Mississippi River. What You Won’t Miss: I won’t miss shoveling snow! Your Teaching Philosophy: It’s to teach science skills and repeatedly practice those skills during class in order to build science knowledge. The skills we use in science are very much like the skills needed to be successful at sports or in the arts in that students need to practice them to become good at them. When you gain

proficiency with science skills you also gain science literacy. Your Hobbies: Yoga, hiking and canoeing. I also really love jumping in a creek or lake in my waders with my aquatic sampling net and collecting aquatic baby dragonfly nymphs. I’m

By Chasadie Searcy Decree Staff Writer In efforts to continue Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, 180 Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff participated in community service projects all around Rocky Mount during the national commemoration January 20. Director of Student Activities Elliot

Smith emphasized how grateful he was for all of the support. “Everyone came together to make the day happen,” he said. The Athletic Department provided the buses. Wesleyan staff members Aaron Denton, Marshall Leonard, and Steve Burrell ferried volunteers to various sites around the city. Other staff and faculty worked side by side with students throughout the day. “It was truly a campus-wide initiative,” Smith said, noting that three years ago, during his first MLK Day of Service, there were about 90 volunteers. “Knowing that we doubled the participation in two years is a testament to the wonderful community we have on campus.” Junior Jordan Stephens worked to help clean Battle Park. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the same fraternity as Dr. King. “Martin Luther King Day means to continue the legacy he left for us,” Stephens said. “As an Alpha man it is my duty to keep up what he left for us.” Stephens stressed that the day was special to him because he was able to celebrate “his brother.” He didn’t let the cold weather dampen his feelings of inspiration. Senior Leah Wright was one of several students and staff who volunteered with Meals on Wheels at First Presbyterian Church. A member of the basketball team, she drove around Rocky Mount delivering meals to those who would otherwise have a hard time getting food during severe weather. During her two hours of volunteering, Wright, a sister in Alpha Kappa Alpha, met an elderly woman who was also an AKA member. “Her name was Ada and she seemed very excited to talk to us,” Wright said. “It was like she didn’t want us to leave.” Wright sat and talked with Ada, and many others that day. “I felt like I was making a difference,” she said. “It was more than just delivering food.” Tavon Gregory, the president of the Black Student Association, served with

five other BSA members at Peacemakers Family Center, a community organization for local youth. “MLK Day is a day of pride and strength,” the Wesleyan junior said. At Peacemakers, students worked from 9 a.m. to noon, unloading trucks and helping to move the organization’s furniture into new facilities. A history and English major, Gregory plans on becoming an educator; because Peacemakers works with underprivileged children, it was a direct way for him to help a group he wants to serve in the future. Senior Cody Vazquez was another participant at the Battle Park location. Temperatures stayed in the low 30’s during the morning, but he finished his two hours out of a desire to serve. “The day is about unity between the races, getting over conflicts, and realizing common goals as human beings,” Vazquez said, adding that he will continue volunteering in the community when the opportunity presents itself again. Financial aid officer ReOtis Anderson worked with Meals on Wheels. He has been serving with Meals on Wheels for the past four years, but this was his first time he participated through the college. “MLK is a day about linking the older and younger generations, to create a mindset of moving forward,” Anderson said. He said he would continue with the tradition of community service. “You may never even get to see the person you helped, but just to know you had an impact is all that matters,” he said. Sophomore Savion Young volunteered with the Exercise Science Club. “Martin Luther King Jr. inspired me to help others and be a beacon of light in this dark world,” Young said. “I know I can beat the odds just like he did.” His service had a positive impact on him. “It shows me not to take things for granted and give back to the community,” Young said. “No matter the place, we all should serve.”

New biology professor Ami Thompson is seen here surveying dragonflies and damselflies in a northern Minnesota lake with fellow researcher Mitch Haag and his son Jason. Photo courtesy A. Thompson

MLK Day of Service: ‘A Truly Campus-wide Initiative’

Leah Wright shares a moment with Ada, a Meals on Wheels client.


Decree since 1960

“of, by, and for the Wesleyan community.”

s ta f f Staff Writers

Mary Cat Davis, Savannah Ekland, Zack Foster, Will Plyler, Chasadie Searcy, Abigail Shah, Rebecca Solis

Special Contributors Carl Lewis, Andrew Stern, Grace Wallace

Faculty Advisor Dr. William Grattan 179 Braswell • Phone: 985-5336 Email: [email protected]

The Black Student Association volunteered during the MLK Day of Service. From left: Adam Tillery, Tavon Gregory, Diamond Allen, Jadèjah Robinson, Joseph Turner and Arron Alston.

raising some nymphs in one of the biology labs right now. I’m so excited to learn about the dragonfly species that live here! I have a dog, Reynaldo (You can meet him during my “dog walk” office hour on Wednesdays at 8 a.m. this semester. We meet at the fountain and walk the path around campus). I also have a pet blue-spotted salamander that lives in my office. Your Dream Vacation: I’d love to travel to someplace in the world that I haven’t been (i.e., Africa, China, Australia) and meet up with biologists who

have passions for different creatures (birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, insects, plants...). I’d explore wild and natural areas with them while we all learn from one another. Favorite TV Show: Right now, I'm watching “Sabrina” on Netflix. Favorite Movie: “Lake Placid.: It’s a really, really bad movie that came out in 1999 with Oliver Platt and Betty White about a giant, man-eating crocodile. I don’t have great taste in movies! Favorite Books: I recently listened to “Where the Crawdads Sing” on Audible and thought it was fantastic. I also really enjoyed reading “Lab Girl.” Favorite Teams: I grew up in Wisconsin, so I’m a “Cheese Head Packers Fan.” Preferred Social Media: I’ve been using Facebook and Snapchat to stay in contact with my Minnesota community. I use Instagram to share my research and outdoor adventure photos. One Interesting Thing about You: I’m passionate about opening the door to science and research for anyone who wants to enter the field because that’s what my mentors did for me. My childhood and young adult life didn't give me experiences that made me feel like scientific research was something “for me,” even though I loved the natural world and had a relentlessly curious mind. It wasn't until my mid-30ties that I entered graduate school, after I had met my academic advisors who saw the potential in me and invited me to work in their labs and earn my PhD. I'm motivated to help and inspire my students in the same way that my advisors helped and inspired me.

Wesleyan Junior Releases Album

Will Plyler, a junior communication and music production major, has recorded and released a CD of original music. Titled “From the Ruins,” it includes 12 songs and runs 55 minutes. The Decree interviewed Plyler in late January soon after the CD’s official release. Q. When did you start writing and recording music? A. I started writing songs when I was 12. I used to mow my grandparents’ grass to make some extra money, and I used to just make up little tunes in my head to pass the time. I really got into recording when I was 15, and my dad gave my brothers and me an iMac that had GarageBand recording software on it. Q. What are some common themes in your work? A. The album title is “From the Ruins,” and it talks about my struggles with anxiety and depression. For at least two years, I wrestled with these issues almost constantly: insecurities, hopelessness, panic attacks, all seemingly for no reason. I had to ask God about why He was allowing me to feel these things and what He wanted to do with it. So, this album represents my thoughts as I’m engaging with God over these things and trusting that, however difficult my situation may be, my God loves to make something beautiful out of brokenness. That’s where I got the picture of a “Castle from the Ruins.” Q. Who are your musical influences? A. When I’m looking for inspiration, I like to listen to David Crowder, Lifehouse, and For King and Country. I write mostly indie-rock/alternative. I’ve also recently been trying to branch out my style and I’ve been listening to a bunch of Twenty-One Pilots as I start to write for my next project. Q. Describe your song-writing process, step by step. A. This has always been a difficult question to answer because every song is different. Some songs start with an idea, a hook, a poetic phrase or a melody, that I hum into my phone and come back to later. These songs can either take five minutes or five months, depending on how long I have to wait before I have free time to sit down and write. Other times I love to take some time alone, grab a guitar or sit down at a piano, and just play and sing whatever comes to me. Sometimes it’s a bunch of gibberish, but other times these moments create my greatest songs. These are usually my favorite moments that I spend with God. The album’s last song is called “Praise the King,” and it came from one of these private sessions. Q. Talk about recording. Were other Wesleyan musicians involved?

A. I did most of the recording in my bedroom at home over the last year and a half, tracking whenever I had free time to do so. I recorded a little bit of piano and some group vocals with some friends here at the Wesleyan studio as well. Q. What happens after you record all the songs? A. After all the recording is done, the songs must be mastered. This is a process where we listen to all the songs together and add final touches to make sure they’re all at relatively the same volume and flow well together. This can take several hours. After that, I buy a bunch of CDs and cases and do the burning myself. Q. How do you intend to promote it? And what have you done so far? A. I promote my music on my social media pages @wpmusicofficial. I hosted a special album-release concert here at Wesleyan on January 10, and I have several local shows lined up for the rest of the spring to play my songs and sell CDs. Q. Where is your music available? A. You can buy a CD from me, or you can find me on Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon.

Will Plyler has released a new CD. “Though the storm is dark and frightening / All the thunder and the lightning / All Your tools to build my trusting / And kill my worldly lusting / Your desire and Your purpose / Is to show me I’m not worthless / ‘Cause I am the one You’ve chosen / With a love as deep as oceans” --From track 4, “Romance Me” “Your blood covers yesterday’s me / Your great love is all that I need / Leave what I have been for what I’ll be / So much more than yesterday’s me” --From track 10, “Yesterday’s Me”

February 21, 2020


North Carolina Wesleyan College, Rocky Mount, North Carolina 27804


Women’s Hoops Team Charges into Conference Tourney

The Wesleyan women’s basketball team won its last two games of the regular season and hopes to make a long run the USA South Conference tournament. The second-place team finished 14-2 in conference action, by far the most successful season of Coach Artina Trader’s 11 years at the helm. The only losses were at the hands of first-place William Peace, a team the Bishops hope to meet again in the tourney. “I wouldn’t say they’re a better team,” junior guard Kayla Johnson said. “Statistically we match up well with them. But if we face them in the tourney, we’ll need to defend well and play a full 40 minutes.” On February 12, Cydney Nichols scored a career-high 27 points, as Wesleyan dispatched Averett, 74-62, at home. Last Saturday, in their regular-season finale, the Bishops edged Mary Baldwin, 68-65, in Staunton, Va. For the season, Johnson led the Bishops in scoring average at 17.3 ppg, good for fourth place in the USA South. She was followed by transfer junior Myrayna Watkins (12.5 ppg). and Nichols (11.6). “What’s different about this team is that everyone can shoot the ball,” Johnson said. “Any player can give you a 15-point night. You never know who it will be. That’s the beauty of this team.” Johnson acknowledged she’s playing with more confidence, due in part to the leadership role she’s been asked to take on this year. She’s been motivated to spend more time in the gym outside the team’s regular practice. She noted that she’s also sought to diversify her game. “Teams knew me from my previous two years, so I committed to making adjustments to my game,” she explained. “I try to do more than shoot threes. I try not to be so predictable.”

Johnson said that the addition of the 5’ 9” Watkins, a transfer from Wake Tech, has helped to make the Bishops tougher to beat. “She can play any position,” she said. “Due to her height, she’s helped not only on offense but rebounding and defense as well.” The Decree conducted an email interview with Coach Trader in early February. Q. What’s different about this team, as compared to previous seasons? A. The main difference is its consistency in scoring from the perimeter. On a roster of nine, we have six players that can hit from 15 feet and out. They put in a lot of time outside of practice, which also sets this team apart. Their “unseen hours” is probably the most in the last 11 years. Q. Kayla Johnson had a strong season last year, but she’s upped her game in 2020, adding about 4 more to her point-per-game average. What’s the main improvement you see in her since last year? A. Kayla’s improvement is a testament to her “unseen hours” and ability to score off the dribble with contact. In previous years she would settle for a jumper or an uncontested lay-up; now in her junior campaign she’s become extremely hard to guard. I also attribute her success to the fact that we have more scoring threats. Myrayna Watkins and Cydney Nichols are each averaging double figures, making it hard for defenses to focus on Kayla. Q. As you noted, Nichols has contributed to the offense in a big way, scoring over 10 ppg and shooting over 45 percent. Comment, in general, on the fact that she’s a standout in two sports (she led the soccer team last fall with 13 goals). A. Cydney’s consistency has been tremendous for us. Soccer gives her a more physical approach to the game. While

most players would like to avoid contact and “Euro-step” for a lay-up, Cyd will try to go through you. And soccer allows her to come in already in shape and ready to go. The only negative is that, due to soccer, she misses three weeks of learning our plays and defensive concepts. But she’s a quick learner and it doesn’t take her long to figure out our schemes. Q. The Bishops have done well in their division of the USA South. Your nemesis has been William Peace. What is it about the Pacers that makes them more difficult for the Bishops to defeat? A. Playing William Peace is like playing ourselves. Their team has a balanced scoring attack with shooting and mobile, undersized post players. It’s done a great job of building around forward Mikayla Ray (11.4 ppg, 8.2 rebounds per game). Both games were 6-point defeats where we went cold at the wrong times. I’d love to face them in the playoffs because that

would be in the conference championship game. If we see them again, we will play a full 40 minutes and not 30. Q. Which teams look strong in the west division? A. I honestly never look past our next game or at the west division. But on paper, Berea is undefeated and plays an up-and-down type game, and they have the conference’s leading scorer. Piedmont is second in the west and plays full-courtpressure defense for 40 minutes. Maryville is the 3rd seed and traditionally has been long (tall) at every position and plays strong fundamentals. If we play any of the three, we’ll have to limit our turnovers. Q. On a personal note, Coach Trader, you’re guaranteed your first winning season (and by a long shot). How gratifying has that been for you? A. I’ve really tried to stay out of the team’s way. Desiree Driver (assistant coach) has been great running our offense

this year and has found a system that puts us in the best position based on personnel. It’s great for the ladies as well as the college, but I’ve had zero effect on this season. Q. Could you elaborate on the new style of play? A. Coach Dez has changed the offense to our strengths (perimeter play and rebounding). On defense, we’re playing in the “gaps” more, trying to take away points in the paint. Q. What about you? How have you changed over the years? A. I’ve taken a more laidback approach to this season. It took me 21 years in coaching to realize an 18-21-year-old can only be an 18-21-year-old, and they won’t understand the magnitude of their college years until they are 30. So, they want to jog instead of sprint to get open, so be it. But don’t be confused when I put in a player that will sprint. I’m no longer going to get upset because you’re fine with being mediocre.

The men’s basketball team got back on the winning track with a 99-77 home victory February 8 over Berea, as senior guard Cameron Martin exploded for a career-high 32 points. “I was just having fun, playing the game that I love,” Martin said. “We needed a big win to help us with our tournament chances and I wanted to give us that push we needed.” The win evened Wesleyan’s USA South Conference record at 7-7, but four nights later the Bishops slipped below .500 with a road loss to rival Methodist, 88-81. The Bishops were paced on offense by forwards A.J. Frye with 16 points and Rico Bullock (15). It’s been an up-and-down season for Wesleyan. After splitting their first

two conference games, the Bishops lost four of their next five. That stretch was followed by a four-game winning streak, with victories over Huntingdon and LaGrange on the road and William Peace and Methodist at home. Two more losses preceded the matchup with Berea. With two regular season contests remaining—February 18 and 22––the Bishops found themselves in fourth place in the east division, 5 ½ games behind first-place Averett. Martin believes the Bishops can succeed in the upcoming tournament, but said that consistency will be key. He noted that the team is armed with plenty of offensive weapons. “We have all the pieces and we know what to do,” he said. “We just have to put it

together every time we step on the floor.” The Wesleyan offense has been sparked by sixth man Damon McDowell, who, as of mid-February, ranked second in conference scoring at 19.5 points per game. The junior forward has been distributing the ball as well as shooting, Martin said. “I love how hard Damon plays every game for 40 minutes,” he said. “He’s letting the game come to him and he’s been doing a great job of facilitating and getting other guys involved. That ultimately helps him find his shots as well.” McDowell was not the only Bishop among the league leaders. Frye ranked fifth with 17.6 points per game. McDowell was 10th with an average of 6.5 rebounds, while Frye was 12th with 6.1.

The Wesleyan lacrosse team opened the 2020 season with 15-11 win at Sweet Briar College on February 12. Freshman Winter Hardison tallied 7 goals and last-year’s leading scorer, Ali Cucinotta, added 5. Freshman goalkeeper Izabella Espoile made 13 saves in her collegiate debut. On Saturday the Bishops fell in their next match, 19-16, to Randolph, despite Cucinotta’s 11 goals. As 2020 gets under way, Wesleyan hopes to achieve a winning season for the first time in Bridget Walker’s three years as head coach. The Walker era marks the third time that the college has tried to establish a lacrosse program since 2004. Hardison and Espoile are among seven freshmen to join Wesleyan in 2020, while Walker and new assistant Brooke Thacker must deal with the loss of two key players from last season. Before the season, the Decree interviewed Coach Walker. Q. The roster includes 17 athletes. Compare this year's number to your first season in 2018. What was the number that first year and what was the number of true lax players vs. the number of true lax players on this year's team? A. This year all the players have at least a year of experience on the lacrosse field. There were only two, Karlee Bjurstrom and Alissa Avery, who didn’t play in high school. But they joined our team over a year ago and they’ve caught up. In 2018 we had 15 players—many lacking experienced in organized lacrosse–– but ended the season with 13 healthy. Starting

with our 17 this season, I’m excited to see what we’ll do. We’re a stronger program today and I’m encouraged with the growth of each individual and the collective team. Q. Grace Look (42 goals in 2019) transferred after her first year and Kailey Andrasko (12 goals) has left as well. Who will make up the lost scoring? A. Their departures definitely leave a void, but I’m thrilled that our freshmen are looking forward to stepping up right away. Winter Hardison will be a strong scorer and sophomores Maddie O’Neill and Maddy Graham should return to contribute after both suffered concussions last season. Having performed well in practice, freshman Goalie Izzy Espoile is ready for the challenge of standing alone in the cage. Q. Last year, junior Ali Cucinotta led the team in scoring with 63 goals and 23 assists. What stands out about her as an athlete and leader? A. Ali’s been a vocal leader since day one. Her enthusiasm brings out the best of each of her teammates. She works tirelessly in practice and not only shows by doing, but also commands your attention to match it. She’s keen to learn something every day and wants to make sure her teammates heard the lesson. Q. Last year, your team sustained a high number of injuries and some players quit, to focus on their studies. Late in the season, this put your team down a player or two at times in your matches. A. Like many teams, we struggle with injuries and athletes balancing their commitments. I believe we started with 15 in 2018 and played the last two or three games a man down; then last year we started with 16, lost one early in the season and a second late due to focusing on schoolwork. We struggled with four concussions that significantly impacted our starting lineup. Q. Describe your level of concern that you might face a similar problem this year, when the Bishops begin with a roster of 17. Is there anything you can do, as a coach, to prevent a similar situation from occurring? A. There are some areas we can control, and some we can’t. A big priority is educating our student-athletes. We encourage them to get enough sleep and eat a sound diet. I’m happy that Athletic Trainer Kelly Bly has coordinated a dietitian to come speak to our team. Maddie and Maddy both sustained concussions in games, but there’s nothing to prevent those because it was our opponents that chose to commit flagrant fouls. Every coach worries

about something happening that could change the outcome of the season, but that’s not our focus; we’re planning for success and will take the hurdles straight on. Q. What was the focus for fall practice and workouts? What have you and your new assistant been stressing so far in 2020? A. Fall ball was all about skills development. We didn’t focus on executing plays because that can come with experience and we were happy with our performance in our fall play day against a D1, D2 and D3 opponents. I’m excited to have Brooke Thacker join us for 2020. She was an outstanding defender and brings a wealth of field knowledge to our game plan. We’ve also stressed fitness and overall athleticism, as well as player movement on the field and execution of the game as one unit. Q. Which teams look most formidable in the USA South Conference? A. Having won the past six conference titles, and boasting a strong roster, Meredith remains a daunting opponent. Pfeiffer and Piedmont should still have some upperclassmen on their roster, making them a challenge. Greensboro, led by my former assistant Lottie Meadows, will be an exciting contest. Q. How will you try to use last year's threegame win streak in motivating your players? Q. Last year’s streak—especially since the wins came against conference rivals--is clearly our motivation. The coaches’ poll came out last week and we were ranked 8th out of the 12 teams. We look forward to surprising some teams this year. I’ve said this multiple times: If Wesleyan is hosting the conference semifinals and finals, we better be playing in them. Q. What most excites you about this year's team? A. I’m seeing their drive to be cohesive and a team. We’ve been building to this, and it’s exciting to see it all come to fruition. We continue to have long-term vision, growing a program that will thrive.

ning run on a single by fellow senior Brad Pennington. Starter Galen Beaver pitched 4 innings, yielding 1 run, 3 hits and a walk. Then three Bishop relievers held VWU to no hits over the last five innings to seal the win. The Bishops opened the season by losing two of three to Eastern Mennonite. Second-year Coach Greg Clifton was interviewed before the season.

(Northern Nash HS, Brunswick CC). Junior right-hander Drew Tubb Jr. (6-0, 4.22 ERA in 2019) will be a regular weekend guy. Q. Which teams in the USA South look most formidable in the coming season? A. LaGrange and Methodist were voted 1-2 in the pre-season poll. I think Huntingdon will be there. Q. What most concerns you about your team? A. Going into the season, team depth is a big concern. Some young guys may have to grow up quick.

Men’s Basketball Aims for More Consistency

Bishops Sports Briefs: Freshmen Key Lacrosse’s First Win

Ali Cucinotta averaged almost 4 goals per match last year. She’s off to a strong start in 2020, tallying 16 goals, as the Bishops split their first two matches. SI photos

Baseball Beats VWU

After falling behind 3-0, the Bishop baseball team scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 7th inning on its way to a 4-3 victory over Virginia Wesleyan at home February 12. The win raised Wesleyan’s nonconference record to 2-2. With two outs, Alec Titmus singled to left field to drive in two runs and tie the game. He took second base on a throw to the plate, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then scored the win-

Softball Set to Defend Regular Season Title

In 2019, Brad Pennington was among the team leaders with a .348 batting average and 31 RBIs. SI photos Q. Your team was 24-16 in your “rookie year.” Were you pleased with the season overall? A. I would say happy, but not pleased. I thought we underachieved little bit. Q. What’s been the biggest adjustment as you moved from coaching high school to DIII college ball? A. The biggest difference is dealing with 50 student-athletes vs 15 in high school. It’s also been different handling off-the-field issues. Q. You’re returning some key starters this year. Talk about two senior infielders, Alec Titmus and Brad Pennington. What does each bring to the team? A. Alec and Penn are special people and players. They bring so much to this team with experience and leadership. Just the way they go about their business every day is something lot of younger guys are starting to grasp. Alec and Penn worked very hard this fall, and their bodies are in good shape for long season. Q. Identify your key starting pitchers. A. We have two new pitchers––righthander Dylan Patrick (from Pitt Community College) and lefthander Derrick Carter

The Bishop softball team, first-place finishers in last season’s eastern division, hopes to make a longer run in the USA South Conference tournament in 2020. Last year saw Wesleyan (12-4 in USAC, 20-13 overall) upset by Meredith College in the first round of the playoffs. The Bishops had entered the tourney with home field advantage against the Avenging Angels, who placed seventh in the regular season with a 7-9 record. John Brackett, now in his 28th year as head coach, spoke to The Decree before the season. Q. Last year’s season ended abruptly with Meredith defeating the Bishops in two games at home. How do you expect your returning players to respond to that disappointing end to an otherwise strong season? How can you and other coaches use that in motivating your players? A. We really haven’t talked about that loss at all this year. It’s a new year, new season, new focus. But that loss and experience could help us in the conference tournament this year. Q. Which teams look strong in your conference? A. Pfeiffer has been picked to win the conference, and they’re a very wellcoached, disciplined team. Averett has a complete team with talent and depth. Salem has a very good one-two punch on its pitching staff, and they swing the bats well. Q. Who will join junior Beth Braswell in the pitching rotation? A. Junior Grace Preston had a good off-season and has worked very hard this preseason. Her screwball has looked good, and she has a great changeup. We have two freshmen from Northern Virginia that have gotten valuable experience in the preseason. We’ve also been using our lone senior, Ashlyn Gosnell, See SOFTBALL pg 4


North Carolina Wesleyan College, Rocky Mount, North Carolina 27804


February 21, 2020

It’s a Balancing Act for New Dad Justin Sabdo

By Rebecca Solis Decree Staff Writer The buzzer rings through the air just as the point guard makes his last threepoint shot before halftime. The fans erupt as the Wesleyan cheerleading team springs to the center court. This is where we first see Justin Sabdo with a huge grin on his face waving up at the crowd. The cheer squad begins their congratulatory chant as they file into formation. Sabdo lines up with his “flyer,” puts his hands on her hips and starts the countdown. On the last bounce, he lifts her into the air and she shoots up just as he catches her feet. Standing as straight as a pole, he extends his arms and she balances on his hands. They all give one last cheer before Sabdo tosses the flyer into the air and catches her by softly placing her feet on the ground. Sabdo is a 21-year-old father and student trying to balance two worlds. When he was 18, his high school sweetheart, Darlene, broke the news that they were pregnant. As a new freshman, he suddenly had to navigate his role as a father. Sabdo, whose paternal grandfather immigrated from Poland in 1952, was born on October 18th, 1998. He was raised in Havelock, in eastern North Carolina on Marine Corps Station Cherry Point with

his parents and two brothers. “I guess I have a different experience than most military kids because my family didn’t bounce around when I was younger,” he said. The rest of his small family is spread out in California and Illinois. Due to his home’s proximity to the beach, Sabdo has many memories there. “During the winter the beach is really nice with the breeze coming through,” he said. In 2008, Sabdo’s dad left the military to pursue a teaching degree, and his family was forced to live off his mother’s substitute-teacher salary. As a result, it was hard at times for the family of four to make ends meet. “We made it through it, but it was a struggle,” Sabdo said, noting that those moments gave him his resilience. Sabdo met his fiancée in middle school, but they didn’t become sweethearts until high school. Growing up as friends solidified their relationship, he said. Darlene is half Filipino and is fluent in both English and the Filipino language. Darlene and their daughter, Vanessa, still live in Havelock where Sabdo visits them often. At school, Sabdo is a double major in accounting and business administration while also working two jobs. No stranger to work, he accepted his first Little Caesars job at 16. His current job is as

By Mary Davis Decree Staff Writer

taking an introductory course sealed her decision. She made up her mind by the end of her freshman year. “The rest is history,” she said. She continued her education at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she earned an MA in exercise and sport science last May. At Chapel-Hill, she maintained a busy schedule. While teaching undergraduate courses, she worked as a graduate assistant with UNC’s women’s rowing and field hockey teams. She also served as a graduate assistant with the intramural and club sports department. One highlight was working with the USA 16U National Baseball Team and USA Field Hockey Junior High-Performance athletes. Hammock came to Wesleyan with many certifications. A certified athletic trainer, she also maintains certifications in first aid, CPR, AED (automated external defibrillator), and mental health. A running enthusiast and avid coffee drinker, Hammock displays constant energy. In her Wesleyan job, she works with volleyball, cross country, men’s basketball, cheer and dance, and lacrosse. NCWC might be a small college, but that hasn’t made the transition into her first full-time job easy. Fall semester was “very busy and challenging,” she said. “It’s been a humbling past few months.” Hammock said she finds it rewarding to help athletes reach their goals. So far, she said, she’s dealt with many difficult injury cases. She noted that her own experiences help in her work. “I understand their priorities and their struggles,” she said. “I try to put myself in their shoes.” Asked to describe her ideal day, Hammock responded without hesitation. She said it should be filled with oversized coffee cups, plenty of athlete rehab and office work, and some “me time.” “What I like most is forming relationships with athletes,” she said. From experience, I know that she always asks students-athletes about their day, their classes and their weekend plans. Hammock’s daily duties cover other activities. For one, she is often observed in her dayto-day responsibilities by Wesleyan’s exercise science majors. Among other things, she must explain injuries and demonstrate rehab exercises. Hammock values the challenges in her job and her life outside of work. In recent years, she has completed three halfmarathons (13.1 miles). When asked if that was easy for her, she laughed. “No, I’m not a natural runner,” she said, noting that she took up distance running during grad school. “I wanted to work toward a specific goal.” In her own training, Hammock combines jogging and sprinting, as well as cross-training and strength work. It takes nine weeks to prepare for each half-marathon. “I’m slow,” she said. “It’s more deliberate progression that allowed my body to adapt to the demands of running the half-marathon distance.” When relaxing, Hammock enjoys a warm vanilla latte, “especially when it’s cold outside.” Befitting an athletic trainer, she says fresh vegetables are among her favorite foods. She doesn’t care much for television or movies, but will enjoy the “occasional cheesy romantic comedy” or documentary. After a full day—from morning athlete treatments and office work, to afternoon prep and practice sessions, to supporting athletes during night games––Hammock deserves such rewards.

New Trainer Hammock Likes a Good Challenge The training room was quiet. The L-shaped room, the size of two classrooms, wasn't crowded for once. The taping tables didn’t have athletes waiting. The bikes were quiet and the treatment tables were almost all empty. The tile floors weren’t yet covered in grass, and the usual smell of hard work had aired out for the day. There was no noise bouncing off the cinder block walls. The only noise was the sound of typing. It came from a small, shared office in the back corner of the room. A navy name card was posted on the right side of the doorway: “Alyssa Hammock, Assistant Athletic Trainer.” A computer screen was filled by documentation. At the computer sat a woman no taller than 5’, 5”, her long brown hair tied back into a ponytail. Her shirt displayed a Bishop Athletics logo, and her khaki pants reached the laces of her grey sneakers. Alyssa Hammock’s focus turned from her computer screen as soon as she heard a voice. For ten seconds, her eyes filled with concern at the following silence. “Oh, you’re here to interview me,” she said. She relaxed as a smile replaced confusion. Tucking her hair behind her ear, she sat back in her chair. “I thought you were going to tell me something bad,” she said. She shifted out of trainer mode for a few minutes. She’s so used to hearing bad news from her athletes. Just as the Raleigh native began to tell me about her family, an athlete came to the door. Hammock apologized: She didn’t want to be rude, but her athlete was waiting. After I gave her the go-ahead, her attention shifted. She scrunched her eyebrows and twisted her earrings, as she consulted with the athlete. She was laser focused. After five minutes of thorough conversation, she apologized to me again. Without missing a beat, she jumped back into our conversation. Her energy was not forced; it felt genuine. Hammock is the middle child and only daughter of divorced parents, Ward and Lori. She has one older brother, Josh, and one younger brother, Phelan, a high school student, who lives with their mother. During our interview, Hammock spoke so quickly that my interview notes look scrambled. She said she’s talked like this since she was child. Fending for herself, as the middle child with two brothers, she said that she needed to speak fast in order to be heard. For this and other reasons, her mother would often caution her. “Alyssa, slow down,” the daughter recalled. Hammock’s fondest childhood memory is from a trip to Disney World. She traveled with her family to Orlando for a cheerleading competition. These competitions, and the practices, took up a lot of time in her youth. She continued cheering into college. “It was my sport,” she said. “It’s what I enjoyed most.” Earning her BS in athletic training at the University of North CarolinaWilmington in 2017, Hammock made the dean’s list all four years of undergrad. She said there was not a specific event that sparked her interest in athletic training. Becoming a trainer allowed her to combine her cheerleading experiences and other exercise and fitness-related interests into a career. Researching the field, completing observation hours, and

Vanessa is learning to talk and walk. “I tell people all the time that teaching your kids to talk is the easy part,” he said, chuckling. “It's getting them to shut up that is the hard part.” Through all his responsibilities, Sabdo believes he is balancing life well. When he’s at school, he said, “There are a lot of late-night phone calls.” Sabdo stays up late after Justin Sabdo with his fiancée, Darlene, and work to finish his homework for the next day. On daughter, Vanessa, 16 months. Photo courtesy of J. Sabdo the weekends, he goes cheer at the college level, and move out home whenever possible. When he’s there, of North Carolina. His goal is to break off his time is focused on his family. When and make a name for himself. “My family he’s at school, it’s often difficult to be is kind of a big fish in a small pond,” he away from them. “There isn't a day that said. Sabdo’s dream state is Texas because goes by that I don’t miss home,” he said. “it has seasons but skips all the bad ones.” But Sabdo knows that completing For the present, he hopes to stay his degree is the best thing he can do with his accounting firm as a VP to provide for his family’s future. It’s a of finance. Since the company is in feeling instilled in him at a young age, North Carolina, he intends to stay long when his parents survived their ecoenough to become financially stable nomic struggles. When he was a freshbefore he can make the move to Texas. man and faced with the decision to In the end, Sabdo said he doesn’t work and live with family or continue regret the decisions he has made in his education, Sabdo knew staying at his life. He looks forward to marrying Wesleyan was the right decision. “Why Darlene, finishing college and enjoynot make the sacrifice now versus two ing everyday life with his daughter. or three years down the road,” he said. He is eager to complete his degree and make it home to watch Vanessa from pg 3 start pre-school and achieve other who hasn’t pitched since her freshman milestones. year. She has a good curveball. Sabdo said the key to staying balQ. Braswell (8 HRs, 30 RBIs, .322 anced is to keep a cool head and live BA, .646 SLG) returns as your leading stress free. His trick is to eliminate power hitter and run producer from last pointless distractions like social media. season. Can you identify other hitters who In five years Sabdo hopes to coach will be expected to generate a lot of runs, or will it be more of a balanced attack? an avid reader and traveled around the world. A. We’ll have a very balanced attack. By Abigail Shah She reported that, besides the United States, We’re blessed with a number of lefties Decree Staff Writer she’s been to Malta, Mexico, the Bahaman who have great speed and can put a lot of The cafeteria was empty and quiet, a islands, and New Zealand, where she visited pressure on the defense with bunts and typical Friday afternoon at Wesleyan. I had the sites filmed in “The Lord of the Rings.” asked Hana Funadaiku when she would be slap hits. We also have quite a few kids While her sister elected to work and available for an interview and she asked if who can hit for power. We’re looking to attend school in Japan, Funadaiku traveled we could meet here. Her text read, “Can we be very aggressive on the bases as well. to America in 2017 to enroll at Wesleyan. meet in the caf? I’m STARVING!” I agreed. Q. How unusual is it in DIII college She had heard about the college through I sat across from the petite, 5’3” woman who a recruitment agency in her country; she softball to have an ace pitcher who is had brought two full plates of food and a plate was given a list of 10 possibilities, and also one of the top sluggers on the team, of sweets to the table. She began to eat, while I Wesleyan was one of them. as is the case with Braswell? explained the reason I was interviewing her. FuFunadaiku was confident in her ability A. It’s not that unusual at our level. nadaiku wore a white top with a tan, long coat, to speak English. She had honed her skills In our conference, many ace pitchers are and high-waisted jeans. I complimented her as a young teenager by listening to the muoutfit and said she looked like a boss woman. also among the top hitters on their teams. sic group One Direction and translating the Funadaiku grew up in Zushi, Kanagawa, Not only is Beth Braswell our ace pitcher songs into Japanese “I wanted to see what Japan, where her house is a minute from the and one of our better hitters, but she’s the words meant,” she said. beach and an hour from Japan’s also an excellent first baseman, and she’s A psychology major, Funadaiku capital, Tokyo. Her father is the keeps in touch with her family by one of our best base runners as well. fifth-generation owner of a popular Facetiming them once every three days. Q. What freshmen will be expected to restaurant known all over their state. As far as her career goals, she make a solid contribution from start? It serves traditional dishes, typically wants to either go into psychology A. Our freshmen and transfers will foods you eat during the colder searesearch or become an intercultural make the strongest impact in the outfield sons, Funadaiku said. Her mother trainer, which, she explained, involves met her father at the restaurant; they and pitching. working for bigger corporations fell in love and have been married Q. What most concerns you and Asthat have employees from different for many years. They have two sistant Coach (Meredith) Mills about this ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures. daughters, Azu and Hana. year’s team? Asked about living in a new Funadaiku talked about her country, away from family, A. We’re not overly concerned about family more. Her sister, Azu, Funadaiku said her only complaint anything. Our schedule will be very tough is six years older than her, but was the difficulty she’s experienced again this year, but we feel that we have the they’re best friends. in traveling to fun places with friends. talent, depth and experience to handle it. “Because of money, my parents “In Japan, there are trains and taxQ. What, in particular, excites the two didn’t really want another child after is and buses,” she said. “In America, Azu,” Funadaiku said. “But Azu kept Hana Funadaiku you can’t go anywhere without a car of you about this year’s team? age 10. saying ‘I want a sister!’So, my parents at A. We’re excited about trying to defend Photo courtesy of H. Funadaiku and quite a bit of money.” started trying for a second child.” our regular season championship. We know Funadaiku works in the Wesleyan Her mother suffered three miscarriages it’s going to be tough, but we accept that library and does tutoring. In her spare time, she before she became pregnant with Hana. loves reading, watching movies, and cooking. challenge. Our number-one goal is to win “When my mother still didn’t know my gender, “When I first decided to rent off campus, the conference tournament, which will be my sister would talk to my mom’s stomach and I was worried because I knew I would have held in Rocky Mount. Our non-conference say ‘Hey, Hana! Hey, Hana!’ Funadaiku to cook all the time,” she said. “But now I schedule is loaded with ranked teams, so recalled. “My sister just knew. We’re kind of conabsolutely love it. Once you start doing it, you that will give us the opportunity to pick up nected in that way. She’s always been like that.” want to keep learning and keep getting better.” While they’ve remained close, Hana and some significant wins. If we can win some Funadaiku said she most enjoys Azu have had their conflicts over the years. of those games, we could get ranked in the cooking Japanese food and pasta. Despite “When my sister was in high school and I region like we did last year. the family business, she came to the U.S. an intern at an accounting firm with a two-hour commute. He hopes to remain in the company after his graduation. His second job is for a flooring company that flies him around the U.S. to set up cheer competitions. This company specializes in the construction of floors with extra bounce for cheer stunts and performances. Each floor has multiple layers which must be assembled. Sabdo said that in April he’ll be involved in the largest cheer competition in the U.S., the Worlds, setting up six floors which he estimates will take 40 workers a day and a half to finish. Sabdo chose to attend Wesleyan due to his passion for cheerleading. “If I could do anything for the rest of my life, it would be cheer,” he said. He started cheering when he was young with his mother as his assistant coach. That forced him to adjust to seeing his mother in a new role. He loved cheering from the start. While at Wesleyan, he’s fulfilled his dream of competing on the college level in the National Cheer contest in Daytona, Florida with the Bishops team. He’s proud of his team securing third place overall at nationals in 2019. Sabdo’s daughter is now the main motivation in his life. He chose her name. “We had an agreement that if it was a boy, she [his fiancé] got to name him and if it was a girl, I got to name her,” he recalled. Vanessa was born in 2018 after Sabdo received the delivery call during cheerleading practice. “That was one of the most interesting experiences I think I could ever have,” he said. “Witnessing childbirth is life changing. I would definitely recommend it. It's eye-opening.” At that moment he realized that all his choices would revolve around his little girl. Now at sixteen months,


Wesleyan Student Profile: Hana Funadaiku

was still in middle school, she would order me around like her little servant,” said Funadaiku with a laugh. Azu would make Hana bring her snacks, find her shoes for her, and do her chores. Hana always complied. “But one day she tried to make me do something and I just said ‘no.’ So she lifted up her leg and kicked me off the couch!” the younger sister said. Funadaiku laughed a long time about this story, but explained that now the two are best friends and no longer fight. As she and I ate, Funadaiku described some of her favorite childhood memories. She said that her father was off work on Mondays and that made it her favorite day of the week. They would go out to a movie or a special restaurant, or spend the day at the beach. The entire Monday was dedicated to the family, she said. Funadaiku said her childhood was filled with activities. She danced ballet for 10 years, became

with few skills in the kitchen. When asked to identify her personal strengths, Funadaiku said she considers herself a good student, but, more importantly, she has good social skills. “There are some people who get straight A’s, but they have zero social skills, so I think I’m more balanced in the two areas,” Funadaiku said. “I’m not a genius, but I make an effort to be both smart and social. I can’t just go to class and ace it. I have to set aside hours to study. It’s not a ‘natural’ thing. It’s really hard work.”’ Hana Funadaiku plans to finish her bachelor’s degree and graduate in the spring of 2021. She wants to find an internship, preferably in Raleigh, and then get “a good job” after graduation. She wants to work for one year in the U.S. with her visa and then see where that leads her. She would be happy, she said, with a more permanent job here as well.

Junior Beth Braswell anchors the Bishop pitching staff. SI photos

Data Loading...