When Alison Starnes goes to work in the morning, she isn’t heading to an office cubicle. She’s strapping on a helmet and checking her equipment, her mind on the next race, the next competition, the next win.
Alison is a nationally ranked professional cyclist. She’s a member of Peanut Butter & Co.’s TWENTY 12 professional women’s cycling team and a member of the USA National Team. She’s also training for the Olympics. And she gives much of the credit for her achievements to the education she received at ACU, both as a biochemistry student and a member of ACU’s tennis program.
“ACU helped prepare me for this step in my career by teaching me perseverance and dedication,” she says. “I learned the value of hard work, focus and drive. I am able to approach this part of my life with resilience and faith. The tennis program taught me the value of hard training, and the chemistry department taught me the importance of knowledge.”
The right college
When Alison started looking for a college in high school, she had three requirements: It had to be Christian. It had to academically challenging. And it had to have a good tennis program. She found all three at ACU.
“Although I really was searching for a Christian university, I also wanted to be able to play NCAA tennis. With the urging of Hutton Jones, the ACU tennis coach, I was able to find the perfect fit, a Christian university that excelled in my sport of choice. ACU’s tennis program has been consistently in the Top 10 in the nation, and the university is known for a chemistry department that is small, selective and cares about their students,” she says. “Even though I was an athlete, I also put a huge amount of importance on my education in a positive, Christian environment. ACU was the ideal combination of all those factors.”
While at ACU, Alison had the chance to publish her research and get hands-on experience in a biochemistry lab.
“I was able to find my passion in biochemistry under the mentorship of Dr. Autumn Sutherlin,” she says. Their research was published in Biochemistry, the premier journal in the biomedical field.
She also got industry experience at Amgen, an international biotechnology company, where she spent a summer in the lab. ”I was able to tell people I was ‘mutating cells’ for fun,” she says.
Her academic achievements would not have been possible without the support of her professors, she says. Their encouragement helped her graduate with highest honors despite a grueling workout schedule for tennis and frequent tournaments.
“They are is an incredibly supportive, understanding group of professionals, and through their urging and assistance, I was able to compete at the highest levels of athletics and perform at the highest levels of academics,” she says.
Faith was an integral part of Alison’s college experience.
“ACU impacted my spiritual life by incorporating my faith into all my endeavors. My dedication in athletics, academics and life is defined through my faith in God. My tennis coach, my professors and my peers inspired me and built me up through their faith and common love,” she says. “ACU was an extremely positive environment for me to continue my growth both spiritually and intellectually.”
And what of her future? Alison would like to continue to do exactly what she does now – blend her love for science with her passion for sports in a way that honors God and inspires others.
“I love applying my science background to my training at the world class level. I understand the way the body works and the way it handles the stresses of competition. I would love to continue to bring science into sport, as well as encourage younger female athletes to pursue their college education.”