Spartan Spotlight: Natalie Jansen, AU ’13

Natalie Jansen

Natalie Jansen, AU '13, receives the Kenneth Olenik Social Science Award at Honors Convocation 2013.

Graduating senior Natalie Jansen has a clear vision for her future, one that involves combining her love of both natural and social sciences with her desire to help others in a meaningful way. A sociology major with minors in chemistry and biology, Natalie will begin a PhD program in sociology at the University of Kansas in the fall. Her plan: earn a PhD, go on to attend medical school, and then join Doctors without Borders as a medical sociologist. It’s an ambitious plan, and one that will require years of hard work, but Natalie is both confident and eager to begin the next phase of her education.

“My professors at AU, particularly Dr. Strassberg, could not have prepared me any better for the PhD program,” Natalie said. “In fact, admission officers at several of the schools where I was accepted said that I had the foundation that I needed to be successful.”  She noted, too, how the AU community rallied together to help her get ready for graduate school

“Applying to graduate school was a whirlwind process, and I am so grateful for the efforts of the whole campus to help me through,” she said. “Not only did my professors encourage me and write letters of recommendation, but faculty whom I did not even have for classes took the time to read my application essays and provide advice on what to study for the GRE.”

Natalie’s drive and determination to help others stems from several volunteer experiences and involvement in student organizations she had while a student at AU. Last summer,  she spent a month in Guatemala with the organization Grupo Evangélico Universitario. During her time abroad, she worked with families suffering from HIV/AIDS, and with the organization Zapatitos de Amor (Little Shoes of Love). She also participated in an alternative spring break trip to inner city Chicago, was actively involved in the Activities Programming Board, and was a founding member of Service Entrepreneurs, a member of the Human Rights Organization, and of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

“The relationships that I have formed with others in my classes and these organizations have changed my outlook,” she said. “Everyone at AU has a different story. Hearing their stories and getting to know these amazing people has transformed me. I’m more outgoing and more open to other points of view.”

Natalie excelled as an athlete as well. She was the varsity tennis team captain and served as executive board president and secretary of the Student Athletes’ Advisory Committee. She was named to the All-Conference Sportsmanship Team and she was named Northern Athletics Conference Scholar-Athlete three times. In her final season, she was named Most Valuable Player. Natalie said that her experiences as a member of the tennis team have informed her outlook on her future profession.

“In tennis, you play as both an individual and as part of a team. When you’re on the court, you have to do your part. When you’re off the court, you have to root on your teammates. In the end, you’re all working toward a common goal. I think of practicing medical sociology in the same way,” she said.

For her positive influence on the campus community through scholarship, leadership and community service, Natalie was awarded the 2013 Kenneth Olenik Social Science Award at Honors Convocation in the spring.

The Kenneth Olenik Social Science Award is presented to an outstanding senior majoring in one of the social science disciplines who has positively influenced the campus community through scholarship, and supportive leadership in academics, campus programs and community service. The award is named in honor of Dr. Olenik, who taught sociology and social science for more than 30 years at AU prior to his retirement in 1996.