Zoë Coleman ’23 wasn’t planning on playing any sports in college when she initially started out.
But four years later, as she gets ready to graduate from Dean, it’s her time spent as a dual athlete that has shaped her entire college experience – and her future career.
“When I first toured Dean, I had been looking at a few different schools that didn’t really feel like they clicked,” Zoë explained. “Everyone always says that the second you step on campus, you know, and that was true for me at Dean. It felt like a community atmosphere where everyone seemed to know and support each other.”
Though she met with the field hockey coach at the time during her Accepted Students Day, Zoë fully intended to just focus on her schoolwork when she arrived.
In fact, her involvement with athletics has actually helped her manage both her time and her classes, thanks to study hours, having set practice and game schedules and support from both her teammates and coaches. And it’s opened up a world of opportunities that have defined her time at Dean.
“If I wasn’t involved in athletics, I don’t know what my career path would look like,” she explained. “So much of what I’ve done here, whether it’s connections I’ve made or trips I’ve been on, has been with athletics.”
As a Communications major, Zoë originally intended to pursue writing as a career. But after getting involved with athletics and interning with Ryan Emerson, Dean’s assistant director of athletics and sports information director, she’s added an associate degree in Sport Management and wants to go into sports information after graduation – a field she wasn’t even aware could be a viable career until her internship.
Zoë also works part-time in security at Gillette Stadium, where she’s building contacts and connections, as well as skills in event management on game days, concerts, private events and more. She’s a member of Dean’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and has represented the College on the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Commissioner’s Council since her sophomore year.
As part of the council, Zoë comes together with other student-athlete representatives in the GNAC and to help improve the collegiate athletics experience.
“We talk about issues we find within our campuses and events we can hold,” she explained. “We want to host a Special Olympics event and have a field day. And we just figure out what we want to do better. Last year, we really focused on mental health, and this year, we’re trying to focus on helping student-athletes find their next steps after they leave college. We’re all so set on a schedule, and as athletes you know what you’re doing, so just to stop and have no idea what’s next is kind of frightening. We’re trying to help find resources for athletes.”
She also had the opportunity to attend the 2023 NCAA Convention in San Antonio, TX at the beginning of the year. At the conference, she was able to network, attend different events and meetings, and use her voice to influence change in collegiate athletics.
One such meeting was a business session where presidents and athletic directors voted on the NCAA’s rules and legislation. Before the vote, conference members met to discuss the proposed legislation, and GNAC Commissioner Joe Walsh asked to hear directly from the student-athletes as the voice of the collegiate sports – and who the legislation ultimately impacts.
“We were able to give our opinions about what was going on,” Zoë said. “One of the proposals was about scheduling, and we explained how sometimes it can be hard to balance schoolwork, internships, work and work studies, and gave our opinion about what it was like in our shoes right now. Some of the athletic directors and presidents that were in that meeting ended up changing their vote because they heard what we had to say. I didn’t realize our voice was going to have such an effect.”
Zoë is also making her mark back on campus. Field hockey is only in its fifth year at Dean, and as one of the program’s early team members, she is helping shape the program for future Bulldogs.
“There’s definitely a lot of struggles when building a program, but also a lot of firsts,” Zoë remarked. “Whether it’s a first conference win or just a first win in general, there’s a lot of opportunity to try and make history. It’s kind of cool, saying I was part of that.”
As she prepares to graduate, Zoë is looking forward to one final season with the softball team – and will be savoring every moment.
“Getting on the bus, going to games, braiding hair before games – it’s the little things that I’m going to miss the most,” she said.
Though she feels ready to start her next chapter after Dean, she knows that the support system she’s cultivated over the past four years will always be there for her.
“I feel comfortable leaving, but I also know that if I ever need anything, Dean has my back,” Zoë said.
And no matter what that next chapter brings, Zoë credits the opportunities Dean has given her with helping her find her path.
“A piece of advice I was always given is to take advantage of any and every opportunity, and always say yes,” she said. “Because you can always try something and realize it’s not for you, but you don’t want to be stuck in that ‘what if’ mentality. I don’t know what I would be doing without the opportunities I’ve gotten. Take advantage of every opportunity, say yes, and realize that it’s okay if you realize that it’s not for you. At least you tried. It helps narrow that path of what you want to do and where you’re going to end up.”