National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) began in 1987 to bring attention to the promise of girls and women in the industry. This NGWSD, we're celebrating our female student athletes and their experiences that are unique to Northeastern University and the D'Amore-McKim School of Business. 

We had the chance to sit down with Grace O'Connor, DMSB'23, and Stella Urness, DMSB'25, to delve into their worlds as student athletes. Both O'Connor and Urness share similar sentiments regarding their identities as students and business professionals, which are recognized and honored by their respective programs. Empowered by their sports and the Northeastern community, they make waves in the classroom and in the business world. 

From the Dock to D'Amore-McKim

In the Spring of 2020, O'Connor learned that the rowing team at her previous school was being disbanded due to budget cuts. Fueled by her passion for the sport, she decided to move forward the Northeastern way. By using her network to connect with former teammates who were current Northeastern rowers, O'Connor found a path to the Boston campus. She was admitted to the university and quickly began to make a mark as a D'Amore-McKim student athlete.

O'Connor is now happily taking advantage of all that Northeastern has to offer. She reflects on her first co-op at cyber security startup SNYK with fondness and pride. “As an analyst at a startup, I was able to work on high-visibility projects. I felt that I was truly making an impact on the company.” She says that the understanding and flexibility of her boss, David Baxter, made it possible for her to thrive as a professional and as an athlete. 

Unlike other varsity programs, the rowing team has both a fall and spring season, which mandates a year-round schedule. O'Connor says that the support she gets from her teammates and coaching staff is immeasurable. “The coaches here value our identities as students and as experiential learners. They make sport work around the competing priorities we have as students and as co-ops.”  

Coming from another institution, O'Connor knows that being a student athlete at D'Amore-McKim is a  unique experience. For instance, she describes her Organizational Behavior class taught by Zhenyu Liao as an incredibly immersive experience. Her classmates are highly participative in class activities and discussions which enriches her learning experience and global perspective.

From the Deck to D'Amore-McKim

Urness is on the varsity swim team, specializing in the 100-meter breaststroke, the 200-meter breaststroke, and the 50-meter freestyle events. When describing her journey to Northeastern, she recalls being drawn to the program based on the coaches' philosophy around the student athlete experience. “Our coaches allow us to take advantage of everything Northeastern has to offer. From academics to co-ops… our schedules can be hectic, but they work with us; they make it happen.” 

She is currently on co-op as an Operations Associate at the D'Amore-McKim Office of the Dunton Family Dean. Most days consist of morning practice, a nine-to-five workday, and an evening practice. Urness credits sports for preparing her for this intensive schedule. “Having been an athlete my whole life, I've been able to refine my time management skills quite well. I've learned how to make the most efficient use of my time and have applied that to my work and school life as well.”

Her favorite class so far has been Business Ethics and Human Rights, taught by Patricia Illingworth. She's impressed by the timely and applicable course materials that delve into issues facing businesses today. Urness says it's refreshing to see this side of business discussed in class. “When you think about business, you think about maximizing profit. What makes this course so special is being able to learn about operating a successful business with consideration to all that is around you.”

The female role models on her team empower Urness to push herself in her athletic and academic pursuits. Last semester her team had the highest GPA for all of university athletics, which is an award they earn often. She says, “I'm surrounded by highly motivated teammates who inspire me to be the best version of myself as a student, athlete, and person.”

If she could give one piece of advice to incoming student athletes it's this, “Don't try to do it all alone; it's okay to ask for guidance.” She credits Student Athletic Support Services for providing tailored guidance unique to the student athlete journey. Sallyann Kakas, her co-op coordinator, was also instrumental in her success in getting a co-op as a student athlete. She was happy to land one at D'Amore-McKim and looks forward to building her resume with the skills she's acquiring in the pool and in the office.