Alyssa Visvardis

16
August 10, 2021 12:08 PM

Name and class year (include maiden name, if applicable): 

 

Alyssa Visvardis - Class of 2016

 

Major(s)/minor(s) while at Millikin: 

 

- Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Mass Media) 

- Minor in Spanish

 

Other degree(s), including awarding institutions: 

 

- Master of Arts in Secondary Education - Saint Xavier Class of 2019

 

Current employer and job title

 

English Teacher at Lockport Township High School District 205 in Lockport, Illinois

(currently teaching Freshman English and Sophomore Honors English)

 

 

Why did you choose to attend Millikin? 

 

I chose to attend Millikin because I was fortunate enough to have been recruited to play both volleyball and softball under Coach Kiick. At the time, she was the head coach of both sports, and when I went to visit, she made me feel right at home with her passion and love for the two sports, just like I had. It's not every day that student-athletes get to continue their career at the collegiate level, and it is even more rare to continue as a dual-sport athlete. I felt like it was truly a dream come true to play for the Big Blue. I could not give up one sport, and I did not know any other way of life, so continuing my athletic career and receiving an outstanding education was very appealing to me. I knew the Communication Department and the professors would help me reach my future career goals. Additionally, I chose Millikin because I fell in love with the campus. I came from a huge high school and town (my high school's graduating class had more students than the entire student body at Millikin), so I felt like the tight-knit community made me feel very "at home." 

 

Please list some of your Big Blue stats and athletic achievements: 

 

MU Softball:

- Millikin's Best Offensive Player, (2013)

- Team Captain, (2015)

- CCIW All-Conference First Team- Outfielder, (2014)

- CCIW All-Conference Second Team- Outfielder, (2016)

- CCIW Academic All-Conference, (2013- 2016)

- Millikin's career Hits record: 170 (2013-2016)

- Millikin's career Runs Scored record: 120 (2013-2016)

- Millikin's career Doubles record: 41 (2013-2016)

- Millikin's career Home Runs record: 22 (2013-2016)

- Millikin's Most Home Runs in Single Game record: 2 (2016)

- Career batting average: .334

- 4 Varsity letters

 

Millikin Volleyball:

- 3 Varsity letters

- CCIW Academic All-Conference (2013-2015)

- Team Captain, (2015)

 

Combined:

- -Big Blue Award (2016)

- 2-Sport Athlete of the Year Award (2016)

- Lindsay Medallion Award (2016)

- Magna Cum Laude graduate (2016)

 

Aside from athletics, what activities did you participate in during your time at Millikin? 

 

Aside from athletics, I was fortunate enough to participate in many activities and events at Millikin. As a Communication (Mass Media track) major, I DJ'd a radio show with two of my friends on Big Blue's WJMU radio. I wrote for the Decaturian newspaper after being inspired by one of my Journalism professors. I was a member of Lambda Pi Eta (Communication National Honors Society) and a member of Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish Honors Society). Millikin's Vespers was something I loved attending during the holidays, and I loved supporting friends in other Millikin sports teams by attending events and games on and around campus. 

 

What was your most memorable moment as a Millikin student-athlete? 

 

I have had many memorable moments as a Millikin student-athlete, but two stand out to me the most. The first was traveling the world and playing in Italy and France with Coach Kiick and the volleyball team during my junior year. Not only did we face the most challenging competition (and extremely tall volleyball players), but my friends and I saw the world, ate the best food, and have photos and memories to last a lifetime. It was an experience unlike any other and one I will never forget. My other most memorable moment was with the volleyball team when we made it to the NCAA DIII Women's Volleyball National Championships in 2014. Although we lost in the Regional's first round, I will never forget hearing our name when we received the bid and the feeling of playing on the biggest stage possible. It is a feeling some athletes only dream of. 

 

What MU professor, coach, or staff member made the most significant impact on you, and why? 

 

From the Millikin athletic world, I want to thank Coach Kiick for genuinely making the most significant impact on my life. Coach Kiick truly cares about all of her players: both as humans and athletes. Her passion for women in sports is admirable, and she has helped pass the love of inspiring and coaching young females on to me, from hosting team dinners at her house to baking her famous sugar cookies after a rough week of practice to creating countless inspirational pregame talks that I know her players will remember forever. There are not many coaches that go the distance and show the love and compassion that she does. Even after she stepped away from coaching Big Blue softball, Coach Kiick was always my biggest supporter and "super" fan: attending our spring break Florida trips, giving me a big hug after a rough day of games, or simply stopping me on campus to tell me how proud she was. She cares about her athletes' health, academics, athletics, and well-being, all while instilling the skills and confidence we need to be positive female role models to future generations and athletes. Even long after graduating from Millikin, I am thankful that Coach Kiick and I still keep in touch and have shared many wonderful conversations regarding my transition to becoming an educator and coach just like her!

 

From the Communication department, I have to thank Nancy Curtin, Melinda Rueter, T-Dunc, and Scott Lambert for their exceptional and powerful courses in communication, writing, public relations, and everything in between. Melinda helped me obtain my very impactful internship at WAND-TV and had the most unique and fun PR class. I know that Communications students truly enjoyed going to her class every day! Those who know T-Dunc, know how powerful, hilarious, and downright vulgar his lectures could be, but they were the most exciting and informative courses I ever took. Professor Lambert was the one to truly kick-start and support my love for writing, as he encouraged me to write for The Decaturian and encouraged me to pursue my passion for sports writing. He not only supported my sports broadcasting/writing dreams but would always ask me about my games and support me as both his student and an athlete. I contribute much of my English writing skills to him and his Journalism courses.

 

The entire Communication department at Millikin and the Athletics department at Millikin truly played a prominent role in my success as a student and athlete. From Jill Johson's smiles at the front desk to the numerous coaches that helped me along my journey, everyone at Millikin has made a lasting impact on my life. Also, a special thank you to one of my softball coaches, Stacey Sparks, for being a huge fan and supporter of mine throughout my time at Millikin.

 

What are some of your accomplishments since graduating from Millikin? 

 

After graduating from Millikin, my greatest accomplishment has been taking a giant leap of faith and making a surprising career change. After substitute teaching in a school district close to home, I fell in love with the classroom and helping children. I graduated with my Master of Secondary Education degree and obtained my initial teaching license in 2019, making a career change to become an educator. It was the best decision of my life, and now I get to work with high school students: shaping little minds at my very own alma mater (with some of my former teachers as coworkers now). I currently teach Sophomore Honors English and Freshman English and am the head Freshman Girls and Boys Volleyball coach. I am also pursuing my second Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction this Spring. 

 

Apart from supporting the Big Blue, what is your favorite pastime? 

 

I love my job teaching and coaching young athletes! Sports are still a huge part of my life, so you can always catch me watching sports/going to games. I am a HUGE and true Cubs fan (not the bandwagon fans who joined in 2016) so I love spending much of my free time in the summer at Wrigley Field. I also love spending time with my family and friends, trying new restaurants because I am a big foodie, and spending way too much money adding to my already very large shoe collection. 

 

 

How has your experience as a Millikin athlete prepared you for professional or personal success? 

 

My experience as a Millikin athlete has prepared me for more professional and personal success than I could have ever imagined. Being an athlete has helped shape my leadership skills, helping me as a teacher and coach in my professional life. Along with being a good leader comes leading by example. I learned that others look up to me to do what is right, even when someone may do wrong. Being a positive role model to former teammates and my players, I see how important it is to instill confidence and positivity in fellow females. While part of Millikin athletics, I learned how to be a good teammate and work well with others: preparing me for work with colleagues and other staff. Being on two sports teams, I had double the coaches and double the teammates, so I learned there are several ways to solve one problem and that people's strengths, differences, and opinions can truly make you stronger and lead to a team's success. Also, being an athlete has truly strengthened my communication skills and my ability to connect with others. I have always been a very vocal person, both on the court/ field, and in life, so speaking and vocalizing was something I am very comfortable with doing. Being a part of two teams at Millikin helped me learn more interpersonal communication skills and helped me see that different people require different approaches and conversations. This has transpired into my career as an educator as I have found that every student is a different learner. They learn at different paces and require their unique modifications and strategies to help them succeed. Just as I got to know each of my teammates and how they play and contribute to the team's success, I now focus very hard on getting to know each of my students personally to fit their needs better and help them succeed as well. 

 

Athletes truly make for outstanding employees because of the time management, dedication, organizational skills, and work ethic of being an athlete for so many years. I love working with and meeting former athletes, and it's been even better to pass on my knowledge to my current players. 

 

What advice would you give to current MU students about preparing for life after graduation? 

 

College is the best time of your life but truly goes by in the blink of an eye. Life after graduation goes by even faster, so truly live each day like it's your last. If you are a Big Blue student-athlete and are fortunate enough to play a sport at the collegiate level: savor every moment. Practice hard each day, play every game like it's your last, go up to the plate-like it's your last swing, and never sleep on a bus/miss a ride with your teammates. The long rides, talks, laughs, hotel sleepovers, team dinners, and stories are what you will remember forever. I don't remember many scores or half of the teams we played, but I will never forget the memories I have with the girls who are still my best friends to this day. If you are a Big Blue student, make sure you also participate in every event and activity you can. Go to class, study hard, take the internship, attend the performance, watch the game, and go to LSB with your friends on Wednesdays while you can. I wish I could go back and relive so many of my fun Millikin memories, but I know I have stories to tell my friends and future children and grandchildren someday!