Jumping at opportunities
July 09, 2019
Recent graduate and AU women’s basketball player Adriana Ramirez would never want to be called for traveling, but off the court, it’s a different story. She has been intrigued with travel since she was a child, so attending college 2,000 miles from her California home was almost to be expected.
Ramirez became interested in Aurora University after an online search for universities with reputable academic and athletic programs. That led to telephone conversations with Spartan coaches, who assured her that she could participate on both the women’s basketball and track and field teams — an aspect that was important to Ramirez, who was dedicated to both sports in high school.
“The coaches talked to me about being from California and the differences between there and Illinois,” she said. “I never toured the campus. I didn’t even do a virtual tour. I saw pictures of the surrounding neighborhood and it reminded me of one of my hometowns when I was younger. After seeing pictures and talking with the coaches, I just had a good feeling. AU appealed to my sense of adventure.”
It’s been quite a journey since she made the decision to attend AU. As Ramirez puts it, she was too busy to miss California. “I made a home at AU,” she said.
That sense of belonging began with teamwork both on and off the basketball court. Ramirez began bonding with fellow players through practices and volunteer activities in the community, including serving at a local food pantry and homeless shelter.
Such team-building exercises improved how Ramirez competed during games. “I play with a group of women who are just as passionate about basketball as I am,” she said. “We never gave up on one another. We worked to better ourselves inside and outside of the gym.”
Her Spartan spirit, impressive record on the court, and love for travel made her an ideal candidate to represent the United States on the 2017 USA D-3 Women’s Basketball Team in Brazil. After receiving an unexpected invitation to participate, Ramirez consulted with her coach and parents and soon found herself at a team orientation in Florida. She then began practices in São Paulo to prepare for the sports tour, which included games against professional and student-athlete teams from other countries. She also helped conduct a youth clinic at Clube Jundiaiense, a nonprofit sports and social organization.
“Playing for AU provided me with the opportunity to compete abroad,” said Ramirez. “Even though I went by myself, my AU team made me a better player, which is why I think I stood out to the recruiter. I was proud to represent the university and to be considered one of the best.”
Ramirez was grateful for what she learned about being a center, a position she has played since high school. In Brazil, she played with other centers who had a different take on the position. “They were everywhere on the court,” she said. “I realized that if I wanted to become a better player, I needed to broaden my range. So coming into my junior year at AU, I made more of an effort to make wider shots. I became more aware and appreciated what other players were doing.”
Ramirez found that perspective helpful when she worked as a basketball specialist for a summer camp in Pennsylvania. Her view on track and field changed too, recognizing that each competition contributes to the whole team’s success. She made more of an effort to support her fellow athletes and to recognize the role each has in earning points for the team.
This new attitude inspired Ramirez’s efforts to expand her horizons on campus. She served as a Spartan Ambassador, meeting with prospective students, answering questions, and giving tours. Her goal was for students to feel welcome like she did when she first arrived on campus.
As a Spartan Ambassador, Ramirez began to feel even more outgoing and confident when interacting with people. The experience also affirmed her decision to major in communication. Now she is continuing her studies at AU as part of the Master of Public Administration Plus One program. The program will allow her to earn a graduate degree in one year.
“I’m definitely open to new experiences, in large part because of what I discovered at Aurora University,” said Ramirez. “I’ve learned to take on new challenges and consider different ways I can improve upon my skills as a student and an athlete. I’m looking forward to exploring more and finding where my path leads after AU.”