Spring convocation: A star on the track and in the classroom

(Edmonton) It’s no secret that the U of A engineering program is challenging. Students need to be creative, apply new knowledge and work together to reach new levels of academic achievement in order to complete the nationally accredited programs.

But they need to balance academics with other activities. It’s hard to know how Amanda Schneck, who is graduating with a grade point average of “3.7 or 3.8” on a scale of four, managed to squeeze so many extracurricular activities into her five-year materials engineering-biomedical co-op program.

Schneck attributes it to good time management. During her first year of engineering she became involved with student clubs and joined the Pandas track and field team. As the years passed, she became more involved and committed to academics, sports and student life.

“I didn’t watch television as an undergraduate,” she said, although she admits that for some people, TV is the perfect way to unwind. Schneck just chose a different activity. Every day after classes, without fail, she trained for the Pandas track and field team. For the past three years, she has been team captain.

That dedication paid off: she broke team records in pentathlon six times in the past two years�four times this season alone. She won bronze at the CIS national track championships this spring, turning in personal bests in hurdles, high jump and the 800-metre run. She was named the U of A’s Female Academic All-Canadian of the year.

In student activities, she was recently awarded the Shell Canada Limited Scholarship in Engineering, based on academic standing and involvement in extracurricular activities.

As a co-op program student, Schneck completed four paid work placements, including a research job on campus helping to develop new biomedical materials for stents, and with the Enbridge facilities integrity group. The latter placement, she says, is where she began to hit her stride as an engineer.

“They really gave me a lot of responsibilities. If I was willing to do something, they’d give it to me. My role grew and I felt respected as more than a student�I felt more like a colleague,” she said.

Naturally, she hopes to join Enbridge full time later this year. But for now, she’s training for the national track and field championships, competing with Edmonton’s Veolo Athletics Club. And she’s relishing the opportunity to pursue one of her passions with no distractions.

“I have to admit that sometimes track suffered because I was studying for mid-term exams,” said Schneck. “And there were instances where I didn’t get to study for a test because I was on the road competing all weekend.”

So in the end, she did learn about balance. But there’s more.

“With the Pandas and the Engineering Students Society I learned a lot about group work and communication, I learned a lot about planning and executing things, how to organize tasks and how things work or don’t work in terms of  co-ordinating and planning events,” she said.

As a co-ordinator and associate vice-president with the Engineering Students Society and captain of the track and field team, Schneck knows the path to success: “I think communication skills are the key to success. When you see things go bad there’s always lack of communication.”