Sometimes it’s easy to look at college athletes draining three-pointers, smashing forehands and gliding across the soccer field and forget that they go to class, work on papers, participate in group projects and study for finals just like the rest of the nearly 40,000 students at California State University, Northridge. But when commencement ceremonies take place May 19-22, there will be plenty of reminders of student-athletes getting recognized for the classroom portion of their college days. Here are three student-athletes talking about their stories of triumph beyond their respective competitive fields and in the classroom, with a glimpse toward their respective futures.
MICKEY HSU, WOMEN’S TENNIS
Since she was growing up in Taiwan, CSUN student-athlete Mickey Hsu dreamed of attending college in the United States in order to pursue a better education. As an international student and standout tennis player for the Matadors, Hsu’s years at CSUN have been a journey, but she said she’s thankful to have had the opportunity to broaden her horizons.
Four years ago when she arrived at CSUN, Hsu overcame the language barrier and worked hard to meet her goals while pursuing her passion for tennis. She double majored in global supply chain management and marketing. In the future, Hsu said, she aspires to be a global director of a supply chain, a chief operating officer for a Fortune 500 company or even start her own company.
“Success is where opportunities meet preparation” is her motto, Hsu said. “I am always working the hardest and giving my best.
“In the very first year when I came in as a freshman, I couldn’t understand a lot of my professors’ lectures due to my English proficiency, but I really wanted to do well,” she said. “I [studied] every single book that was required for all of my classes — it was a steep learning curve.”
She climbed that learning curve quickly, achieving a near-4.0 GPA after her freshman year.
With English as her secondary language, Hsu noted that it’s more difficult to find jobs. She pushed herself to work harder than her peers. She played on the CSUN women’s tennis team, and the team became her home away from home. As a CSUN student-athlete, she gained mentorship, a group of friends who support her and more confidence in herself, she said.
CSUN women’s tennis head coach Gary Victor, was a particular influence on her choice of CSUN. “He was and still is the most considerate coach I have ever met,” she said. “The team feels like a big family, and thus supports me and motivates me through thick and thin. It’s one of a kind!”
Reflecting on the past four years, Hsu said, her life has changed tremendously. She’s gained new experiences and new friends who have influenced the way she thinks. While CSUN has given her confidence in herself, she continues to value humility because, “I’m always amazed by lots of successful people,” she said.
Hsu said she’s excited about her future prospects.
“I like trying, learning and experiencing things, so I am always open to new opportunities,” she said. “Every day, my thinking and my life goals change. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me.”
King, known to her friends and family as Katie, has been playing basketball since she was 3 years old and said that her proudest moments in the sport include twice winning Big West Conference championships at CSUN and overcoming her injuries.The summer before she arrived at CSUN, King herniated a disk in her lower back — an injury that required her to have surgery in the summer of 2013. A year and a half later, she was cleared to play as a Matador. Shortly after, she herniated the same disk, had a second surgery and decided to retire.
“The biggest team accomplishment was winning the back-to-back Big West championships [in 2014 and 2015],” King said. “As an individual, coming back from my injuries was big for me mentally.”
Although she is no longer on the court, King remained a part of the CSUN women’s basketball team, serving as a video coordinator.
“After talking to Coach [Jason] Flowers about medically retiring, he said he would give me the responsibilities of a video coordinator,” King said. “I record practices, break down film, compile film edits for the team and keep stats for the team. My role is to do whatever the coaching staff and team needs.”
But King’s accomplishments don’t stop at overcoming injuries and winning championships. In fact, King has multiple academic achievements.
King has earned a 3.3 cumulative GPA, made the Big West Conference honor roll twice and has been celebrated twice at CSUN’s Varsity N Athletics Honor Roll Ceremony, which recognizes academic excellence among student-athletes.
After graduation, King has her sights set on going to Concordia University Irvine to obtain a Master of Arts in Coaching and Athletic Administration, and she will be a graduate assistant to the CUI women’s basketball team.
“One of our assistant coaches recently got the head coaching job for the women’s team [at CUI], and she asked if I would join her staff and be a graduate assistant while I do my schoolwork there,” King said.
A talented basketball player and daughter of a high school head coach, King aspires to be a head coach for a women’s basketball team and is looking forward to the journey on the way to accomplish that goal.
But his achievements extended off the field as well.
Samayoa was one of 29 Matador student-athletes who notched Big West All-Academic Team honors for the Fall 2016 semester, an award given to athletes who maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and competed in at least 50 percent of their team’s games during the season.
“Being named to the All-Academic team was huge, especially because it made my parents proud,” Samayoa said. “My parents have always been big on my academics, and they always wanted me to get the best grades possible.”
Samayoa, who is graduating this month with a cumulative 3.2 GPA and a degree in finance, financial planning and insurance, credits his parents for emphasizing the importance of education throughout his time in school.
“My parents always told me that grades were more important than sports and that grades reflect who you are,” Samayoa said. “Now that I’m graduating and looking for jobs, I’m very grateful I’ve had good grades throughout college because that gives you a push in the door.”
Samayoa hasn’t ruled out playing soccer professionally after graduation, but the 22-year-old is focused on going to law school and pursuing a career in corporate or immigration law.
“For the next year, I plan to save as much money as I can, play as much soccer as I can and study for the Law School Admission Test,” Samayoa said. “Playing soccer is always an option, but it’s not something I’m relying on. I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket.”
According to CSUN men’s soccer head coach Terry Davila, Samayoa will find success in any avenue he chooses after college.
“Overall, [Samayoa] is one of the best student-athletes to wear the CSUN soccer uniform,” Davila said. “Wherever life takes him as a father, soccer player, businessman or friend, he will be loyal and a role model to others around him.”