When Jonathan Young talks about a course, his friends in the Donald Bren School of ICS might think he’s talking about a computer science course, but his teammates would likely assume he’s talking about the golf course. The same is true for Ryan O’Connor. Both Young, a senior majoring in computer science, and O’Connor, a senior majoring in business information management, are members of the men’s golf team — recently crowned “Big West Champs!”
“Winning the conference championship was really special for us,” says Young. “We are all excited to continue our season at the NCAA Regionals.”
Of course, more golf tournaments means more missed classes, and Young admits that balancing his academic workload and athletic schedule can be challenging. Yet memories from such tournaments, shared with his teammates, make it all worthwhile. “The friendships I have made over the course of these few years will be ones I will cherish for the rest of my life.” Furthermore, the difficult schedule motivates him to get ahead on assignments and study early for exams. “I contribute a lot of my success in the classroom to being a student athlete, because it has forced me to develop a strong work ethic.”
Omar Valenzuela, a third-year informatics major and member of the men’s track and field team who won the discus at the Big West Challenge and All-UC Championships as a freshman, agrees. He says that the balancing act is “very difficult” but leads to “hard work” and “discipline.” He adds that the priority registration given to athletes helps, as does the “encouragement and motivation that’s given to me from UCI Athletics, my parents and friends.” He has also learned through team events how to “efficiently communicate and support others.”
Another member of the track and field team is computer science major Ashton Garcia, who doubles as a member of the men’s cross country team. It’s no surprise that Garcia, who has clocked in at 25:20 for the 8,000 meters, says that his scheduling “all comes down to timing.” According to Garcia, once he gets his class schedule, “I tend to set times for which I can work on my various assignments equally.” He is also grateful for priority registration and says that “the athletic academic advisors are such a gift to us athletes, [as is the] access to amazing facilities, such as the Al Irwin Academic Center.” Garcia enjoys being part of a Division 1 sports team and “competing against other big institutions in the country.”
As reported by the National College Association of Athletes, there are more than 480,000 NCAA student-athletes, yet just a select few within each sport will compete at the professional or Olympic level. Aware of this reality, these ICS students are already planning for their post-athletic careers. Garcia wants to work in the gaming industry, Valenzuela plans to be a technical project manager, and O’Connor has said he hopes to pursue commercial real estate investment. Yong aims to stick with golf, but not as an athlete. After working on an iOS application with the Athletics Networking and Technology Services department at UCI and developing another iOS application that keeps track of the “strokes gained putting” golf statistic, he says “it would be awesome if I could work as a software engineer within the golf industry.”
Regardless of where they end up, these four ICS majors have an edge as team players with excellent time management skills, a solid work ethic and the competitive drive to succeed.
— Shani Murray