Education Guide — Summer 2014
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Mind And Matter
Paul Rogers


If an Olympic athlete can find time amongst their strenuous training schedule and constant travel to successfully pursue higher education, then surely we all can? So LA Weekly spoke to USA Women’s Bobsled National Team driver Jazmine Fenlator who, on top her full-time training schedule, has already earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is on her way to an MBA.

“I think that competitiveness and drive is just in my blood and in my nature,” said Fenlator. “And I’m mature enough to know that athletics is a great opportunity and a career, but it’s always a questionable variable as to how long it will last. There are other things on my list of life accomplishments I want to achieve that will define me as a whole – not just the Olympic bobsledder.”

In high school and college, New Jersey native Fenlator made a name for herself in discus, shot put and hammer, including being declared one of the 25 all-time greatest athletes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Her track and field coach at Rider University then introduced her to bobsled and encouraged her to attend a camp. In 2007, she was named to the U.S. bobsled team, initially as a brakeman, but for the last three years in the more responsible role of driver.

Although she now trains full-time in Lake Placid, N.Y., Fenlator has far from neglected her academic pursuits. Building on the bachelor’s degree in multimedia communications and advertising that she was awarded by Rider in 2007, she completed her master’s degree at California University of Pennsylvania, with a concentration in exercise and sciences, in 2012 and is now pursuing her MBA at DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management.

At age 28, Fenlator is fresh off her 11th place finish in the women’s bobsled event at the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia.

“It was a remarkable three and a half weeks,” she recalled of Sochi. “I’m extremely grateful for that opportunity and look forward to using that platform [moving] forward.”

Even during busy, international World Cup seasons (including silver and bronze medal-winning performances), and while her training regimen ramped-up immediately prior to the Olympics, Fenlator was able to continue working on her MBA, with a concentration in marketing, thanks to DeVry University’s flexible programs, which are geared toward working adults.

“With [DeVry’s] capability of not just going to school in brick and mortar [classrooms], but also having the capability of strictly online schooling or doing a combination of both … really opened the door to keep pursuing some of the educational goals that I continue to want to do, but always kind of was skeptical about with training for the Olympics,” Fenlator explained.

Fenlator said she spends up to 70 hours each week on training and estimates that her MBA studies require between 10 and 30 hours per week. Yet she has been able to maintain both, as well as family and social commitments and the public engagements required of a prominent athlete.

The structure of DeVry’s MBA program and the availability of its Keller Graduate School of Management staff have been crucial to Fenlator’s epic athletics/academics balancing act, she said.

“To be able to have eight-week courses, they’re rolling courses; advisors that are on-hand no matter what time zone I’m in; professors that are profoundly willing to answer any questions and work with you and tutor you and respond so quickly, really opens up that educational experience.”

The flexibility and self-pacing of DeVry’s programs (Fenlator was able to take a break from studying altogether immediately before the Sochi Olympics in order focus on her preparation) make them surprisingly do-able for adult learners. And the clarity with which courses are presented makes remote online learning much less intimidating.

“When I log-in for a course and it’s the first week, I have a full syllabus of the next week – so I can almost look at my calendar and plug-in ‘this is when a mid-term is; this is when a final is; this is when a course paper is due’,” Fenlator said. “I can see my events throughout the week and know, OK, I’m going to need to start on this paper early.”

Fenlator credits time management and prioritization as crucial to maintaining her demanding schedule. She recommends keeping a calendar to help juggle work (or, in her case, training), study and social, family and alone time.

“It seems like a lot, but it’s divvied-out,” she said. “Y’now, people spend two, three hours a night watching TV or playing video games or reading books every day. If you put that [time] into schoolwork, [from] which you know you’re going to recoup the benefits and have return on that investment … I think that’s what would make it worth it - whereas watching The Voice on television is not going to do that for you!”

While Fenlator feels that she is yet to hit her peak as a bobsled pilot and remains passionate about the sport, she is also interested in becoming a part-time consultant to corporations involved in marketing to athletes while still competing at the highest level. With her educational focus on marketing, she is also well aware of the value of being able to effectively market herself as a “brand” – a necessity for many Olympic hopefuls who, with limited or no opportunity to be employed, need to attract sponsors to help finance their training.

Fenlator is on course to complete her MBA at DeVry by the middle of next year. With that qualification in her pocket, she is excited about her post-bobsledding prospects. She mulls one day becoming CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, but also dabbling in photography; headingup an entrepreneurship; founding a non-profit organization; and continuing her existing role as a public speaker.

“You’re going to have setbacks,” she concluded. “So embrace them, because they’re an opportunity for you to move forward and learn something and use it in a positive way. Don’t always look at failure as something that’s negative.”