Making the Grade

Nov. 8, 2013 - by dphawkins

Making the Grade

MNU's Top Scholar Athletes Make the Grade

By Carol (Knight '81, MA '08) Best

Kassidy Ritchel

baseball

English language arts major Kassidy Ritchel is MNU’s top academic competitor. Achieving high marks in the classroom and contributing points on the basketball court, the senior center carries a 3.99 GPA.

Always an achiever, Ritchel was ranked second academically in the class of 2010 at Truman High School in Independence, Mo. In competitive basketball since fifth grade, she played both basketball and volleyball for Truman.

“I think my academics parallel my athletics,” Ritchel says. “I’m competitive on the court and in my studies. If I’m not giving my all, I feel uneasy.”

Ritchel wasn’t even considering MNU when she met Pioneer women’s basketball head coach Jon Lewis through The Eclipse, an area basketball league he also coaches. Lewis finally convinced her to visit the campus and everything changed.

“It was the feeling on campus,” Ritchel remembers. “Something tugged at me.”

Her second day in British literature as a freshman, Ritchel wondered if she could handle the coursework. After admitting this to her professor, she got reassurance and the offer of help whenever needed.

Speaking about the genuine nature of the MNU community, Ritchel remembers thinking, “This can’t be how people and professors really are.” But she found they were.

“They look after you as an individual,” Ritchel says. “They look at each person. Even your peers are genuine. I feel like we’re all in it together.”

Ritchel says multiple field experiences, or practica, in her major make her feel ready for classroom teaching. Serving at Ozanam—a multi-service treatment center for adolescents—at Olathe East High School and at Spring Hill Middle School gave her a diversity of experiences that should help her succeed in student teaching.

“I feel really prepared,” she says. “I had to get out of my comfort zone and adjust to different teaching situations and types of students.”

Ritchel is gearing up to play basketball and fulfill her student teaching assignment in the spring. It wouldn’t be possible, she says, without the strong cooperation between athletics, the School of Education and the school district.

Strong academics, a genuine community and career preparation make Ritchel glad she chose MNU.

  • Hometown: Independence, Mo.
  • Height: 6-feet-2-inches
  • Sport: basketball
  • Position: center
  • Lesson learned at MNU: “Last year I got less play on the court than ever before. It took a lot of conversations with teammates and coaches to get through it. But I’m glad for the highs and lows. It molded my character. Basketball has more to offer than the game.” Coach Jon Lewis: “Kassidy is an invaluable member to our Pioneer family. She is not only a leader on the court, but also within the MNU community. Kassidy takes on enormous challenges in her athletic and academic endeavors and conquers these challenges with energy, precision and class. She truly defines what it means to be a Pioneer.“

Linjun Ji

baseball

Watching Linjun Ji on the volleyball court, it’s easy to see why she played on China's national team. The 6-foot Shanghai native is strong, focused and her serve lands where she intends. So how did MNU score a nationally recognized Chinese volleyball star? Connections.

During a trip to the U.S. with her Chinese team, Ji met coaches from California Baptist University. Desperately wanting to attend college—opportunities are limited in China—Ji let them know she was open to coming to the U.S. But would the Chinese let her leave their team? After several months she was finally allowed to enroll at CBU for English as a second language. Through networking she met MNU coaches and after one semester transferred to MNU three years ago.

Studying in her second language has been a challenge, but Ji keeps her grades high. Her advisor Lynne Erikson and other professors are helpful.

“All the professors have been good,” she says. “When I don’t understand something I have learned to say, ‘I’m struggling.’”

Reaching out for assistance is unusual in Ji’s culture. In China few people admit to needing help, she says.

“Sometimes professors would ask if I needed help,” she says. “I was surprised because I found out they really meant it.”

Majoring in accounting, Ji already has a U.S. job she plans to continue after graduation, working in product development for a Shanghai company.

  • Hometown: Shanghai, China
  • Height: 6-feet
  • Sport: volleyball
  • Position: outside hitter
  • Best thing about MNU: “You’ll know the professors. You can have close relationships here.” Coach Kristin Steele: “Ji is irreplaceable. She began her volleyball training at a very young age and played with and against some of the world’s best athletes. She is an incredible example of discipline and hard work. All of her education was with personal tutors, squeezed in between training sessions, travel and competition. This way of learning has helped Ji, who knew very little English when she came to the US.”

Blake Robberson

Robberson

Teammates call the right-handed relief pitcher Blake Robberson “Robo.” The sophomore biology major was second on the Pioneers’ baseball staff last season, and his 2.68 ERA in 43.2 innings led MNU. He also excels in the classroom. Voted biology student of the year in his freshman year, Robberson’s goal is to be a veterinarian.

It wasn’t always that way, though. Robberson had difficulty reading as a child, and he characterizes his years in middle school as unmotivated. However, once he had a goal, he realized how important good grades were and began to excel.

“I started seeing how others studied and I took it in,” he says. “I was shocked last year when I learned I got biology student of the year. I was just doing my best. I’m very grateful for the scholarship.”

Like many others, Robberson says the best thing about MNU is the people.

“Coming here it’s like you are working together with your professors,” he says. “It’s you and them versus the material. No matter how hard the material is and how you are doing, they work for you.”

He also brags on MNU’s high-tech labs, saying the equipment helps him learn science more effectively.

  • Hometown: Edmond, Okla.
  • Height: 6-feet-1-inch
  • Sport: baseball
  • Position: relief pitcher/infielder
  • Greatest inspiration at MNU: “Coach Thompson is phenomenal. Some people idolize their sport, but Coach T loves God in everything he does. He’s a great role model.” Coach Ryan Thompson: “Blake always brings a positive attitude to practice and he is a great competitor. He strives to improve on a daily basis and he consistently models character on and off the field.”

 

MNU News

Wednesday, February 22
Recent News
List
Grid
Archives
bc-fa-weekend-large
50th Anniversary Fine Arts Weekend March 4-5

50th Anniversary Fine Arts Weekend March 4-5

MNU’s 50th anniversary celebration continues next month with a weekend packed full of music, theatre and art from yesterday and today, March 4-5,…

Read More
TC-w-tag
Ministry Leadership Institute for High School Students Taking Applications

Ministry Leadership Institute for High School Students Taking Applications

Applications are open for The Call, a one-week ministry leadership institute held June 5-9 or 12-16. Pastors, professors and others in ministry will…

Read More
Drummond-1
Drummonds to Serve as Honorary Co-Chairs of MNU Gala

Drummonds to Serve as Honorary Co-Chairs of MNU Gala

MidAmerica Nazarene University announced that long-time community leaders, Dr. Bob and Julie Drummond, are the honorary co-chairs of the 2017…

Read More
Kayla Cossins
2017 Scholarship Challenge Winners Announced

2017 Scholarship Challenge Winners Announced

High-achieving high school seniors were invited to compete for one of three prestigious full-tuition scholarships at Scholarship Challenge Weekend…

Read More
Founding Faculty Mourned

Founding Faculty Mourned

Founding Pioneer Faculty Member Mary Alyce Galloway, 86, passed away on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, in Longmont, Colorado. Mary Alyce joined the faculty in August 1968 to teach English. Later she became…

Read More
Garrett Todd-5
Garrett Appointed MNU Athletic Director

Garrett Appointed MNU Athletic Director

MidAmerica Nazarene University announced the appointment of Todd Garrett as Director of University Athletics today. Dr. David Spittal, MNU president made the announcement saying,…

Read More
IMG 4417
MLK Living Legacy Award to Rev. Marvin Daniels

MLK Living Legacy Award to Rev. Marvin Daniels

Rev. Marvin Daniels, executive director of The Hope Center of Kansas City, was honored with MNU's Martin Luther King Jr. Living Legacy Award…

Read More
Open House Pic
Accelerated and Graduate Programs Host Open House

Accelerated and Graduate Programs Host Open House

The School of Professional and Graduate Studies is hosting open houses at its Liberty and Olathe locations. WEDNESDAY, February 22    …

Read More
Male Nurses: Addressing the Numbers and the Stigma

Male Nurses: Addressing the Numbers and the Stigma

According to data and statistics, the lack of professionally active male nurses is apparent. Female nurses are not uncommon—nationally, there are…

Read More
Sports
Pioneers Beat Panthers

Pioneers Beat Panthers

OLATHE, Kan. - The Pioneers picked up their biggest win of the young season with a 4-2 victory over #13 York on Tuesday...

 
Huge 2nd Half Propels Pioneers

Huge 2nd Half Propels Pioneers

OLATHE, Kan. - A dominant 2nd half gave MNU a 91-75 victory over Central Methodist on Saturday...

 
Eagles Handle Pioneers

Eagles Handle Pioneers

OLATHE, Kan. - The Pioneers struggled from the field in a 77-59 loss to #24 CMU on Saturday...

 
Latest Photos
20161021_MNU_homecoming_Dinner_0612
20161021_MNU_homecoming_Dinner_0562
20161021_MNU_homecoming_Dinner_0517
20161021_MNU_homecoming_Dinner_0492
20161021_MNU_homecoming_Dinner_0478
20161021_MNU_homecoming_Dinner_0448