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

Friday, July 31
Recent News
List
Grid
Archives
NYC Scholarship Winner 2015
Scholarship Winner Always Wanted to Attend MNU

Scholarship Winner Always Wanted to Attend MNU

Dania Unruh had given up on her dream of attending MNU. Based on finances the senior from Garden City, Kansas figured she would attend community…

Read More
Pete Robinson
Army Chaplain named Alum of the Year

Army Chaplain named Alum of the Year

Army Capt. Pete Robinson (’04) wanted nothing to do with the military or hospitals when he graduated from MNU with a BA in youth and family ministry. Growing up in a household in which his father,…

Read More
MWROC-LN-072012-0668
Video: Mark Wood Orchestra Camp

Video: Mark Wood Orchestra Camp

It's the sixth year they've come to Olathe and MNU to learn from some of the world's best electric orchestra artists. And they love MNU's Bell Center and the experience they get from the Mark Wood…

Read More
Ranked #1
MNU Number 1 in Kansas in Money's Best Colleges 2015-2016

MNU Number 1 in Kansas in Money's Best Colleges 2015-2016

MidAmerica Nazarene University was named number 1 in Kansas among public and private colleges and universities in Money magazine’s “Money’s…

Read More
BlakeWalker
FCA Huddle Underway at MNU

FCA Huddle Underway at MNU

Assistant Football Coach Blake Walker, says the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was the bridge for him from a 19-year-old student athlete searching for his place in the world, to a sold-out…

Read More
KCRM
SERVEteams Assist KC Rescue Mission

SERVEteams Assist KC Rescue Mission

MNU SERVEteams Squad'66 and Voices of Praise had the privilege of joining the ministry of the Kansas City Rescue Mission recently for an evening. Voices of Praise lead more than 80 men in worship.…

Read More
Chris Crawford
Professor On Medical Staff for Paralympic Swimming World Championships

Professor On Medical Staff for Paralympic Swimming World Championships

Assistant Professor Chris Crawford (’00) will soon land in Glasgow, Scotland to serve on the medical staff for the 2015 International Paralympic…

Read More
Jeremi Wonch
Alum Wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science

Alum Wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science

Jeremi (Heiney '88) Wonch is one of two Kansas teachers winning a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Chosen by a…

Read More
Mark Wood
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Kicks Off 6th Annual Rock Orchestra Camp July 12- 19

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Kicks Off 6th Annual Rock Orchestra Camp July 12- 19

International recording artist and music education advocate Mark Wood, one of the founding members of the multiplatinum group Trans-Siberian…

Read More
Sports
MNU Inducts 5 Into Athletics Hall of Fame

MNU Inducts 5 Into Athletics Hall of Fame

Mike Birge (football), Danny Hawkins (basketball), Penny Morin (softball), Matt Schneider (football), and Justen Wack (soccer) will be inducted on Homecoming weekend in October...(click title for more)

 
MNU Women's Soccer Camps

MNU Women's Soccer Camps

(click title for details)

 
Wade Watkins Joins MNU XC/T&F Program

Wade Watkins Joins MNU XC/T&F Program

MNU Athletics is pleased to announce the addition of Wade Watkins to the MNU Track and Field/Cross Country program as Associate Head Coach...(click title for more)

 
Latest Photos
The early construction of our booth
The early construction of our booth
The early construction of our booth
Our booth was complete with a looping video & prezi about MNU.
The complete booth! Our steel structure was created by local artist and alum David Platter and topped with images of Kansas City and the MNU campus.
With plenty of space to simply hang out, we designed our booth to be an open and welcoming place.