SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Senior women's tennis player Marta Stojanovic has been named the College of Arts and Sciences Valedictorian for the Class of 2016. While pursuing her Behavioral Neuroscience major and maintaining a 4.0 GPA, the Belgrade, Serbia native has been a standout on the court as well as in the classroom.
"I am extremely proud of Marta Stojanovic as she represents women's tennis and our athletic department in receiving the status of Valedictorian," said Sherri Stephens, USD head women's tennis coach. "The University of San Diego and our athletic department place a high value on the title of `student-athlete.' This is a real accomplishment and I believe it shows a shared responsibility between faculty and coaches to help each student-athlete reach their potential on and off the field."
Stojanovic did not intend to be a Valedictorian or her teams' top tennis player, however, her work ethic and attitude combined with her natural talents made such lofty accomplishments attainable.
"Being Valedictorian was never really a goal," Stojanovic said. "Especially since I had no idea how it works in the United States or what the criteria was. I always tried to do my best and if an award or recognition comes along I feel grateful."
Doing her best meant a lot of balance for the senior. Daily practice becomes part of the routine much like the class schedule but class assignments, team road trips and mid-week matches require as much dexterity as sprinting across the court to place a strong forehand.
"I think the most important thing a student-athletes should do is find balance," she said. "Balance between all those different commitments, balance between working hard and taking time off, balance between stress and enjoyment. I think it is a very useful skill that can be beneficial at any point in your life."
She found that balance all while pursuing a challenging degree in behavioral neuroscience. She picked the program due to her interest in both biology and psychology. It only took her a few classes to get hooked.
Added Stojanovic, "I became completely fascinated by the brain and nervous system and realized it is a perfect area for me."
She will continue to pursue her passion in neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri where she has already been accepted into their graduate program. She hopes to be doing work that helps others and much like her career here at USD, she could see balancing multiple challenges.
"I would like to do research on Alzheimer's disease, to work as a neuropsychologist, and possibly as a professor at a university," stated Stojanovic. "There are a few options but I hope to be doing some meaningful work for the community, surrounded by family and friends in a beautiful place. Maybe I will even be back in San Diego."
For now she continues to excel with her class work as she works in preparation for the speech she will deliver to her class during graduation. The two-time WCC All-Academic team honoree navigates the excitement and anxiety with her typical positive attitude and balance that has served her well for four years.
"Obviously, there is going to be a lot of people there and expectations will be high. But, I am also excited to share something that I believe in and deliver a message to my fellow classmates that could potentially serve as an inspiration for our future."
Just four years ago Stojanovic came to San Diego for the beautiful city, the great tennis and one outstanding university. Now as her final days on the one-of-a-kind campus that overlooks the Pacific Ocean tick down, she finds herself reflecting on what she has accomplished and looking forward to how much more she has left to do.
"My experience at USD was great and memorable. I have created some amazing memories during my four years, especially with my team. There were some tough moments as well but I have learned and grown so much. I met many great people and felt like I had a second family here at USD. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of USD and hope to one day be able to give back as an alumnus!"
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