Katelynn Thompson

Katelynn Thompson
Photo by David Schmitz

Dean’s Scholar

Major: Kinesiology
College of Applied Sciences and Arts

Why did you choose your major?

I chose Kinesiology because I have always been very interested in the human body and its functions. Everything we are able to do solely because of our specific structure is incredibly intriguing.

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

Growing up, I always struggled with school. Academics finally started clicking in high school, and I made a very conscious decision to focus and get everything out of every class I could in college. This award tells me that I have achieved my goal. Given that, I can still always do better.

Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life?  In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.

Not to be corny but instead completely serious: my mom has had the biggest impact on my life. I came to SJSU for both Kinesiology and to be a part of the Women's Water Polo team. I had a lot of struggles with the water polo end of my college career and my mom has always been there to lift me up. She's still there, and she's still amazing. Her work ethic and past athletic successes inspire me every day to try and be like her.

On the academic side, Dr. Shifflett has had an incredible influence on my academic success. She accepted me into her upper division course as a sophomore and always made herself available to help. One of the things she says every semester stuck with me the moment she said it: "Resources are useless unless you use them." There are so many tools all around us. Teachers, peers, books, notes, and the ever-impressive internet, among other things, are all at our fingertips to help us. Though I knew this, I never thought of it the way Dr. Shifflett phrased it. I never used them adequately. She changed my outlook and saved my grades my sophomore year and thereon out. She reminded me I did not have to rely solely on myself to study. It was completely acceptable to reach out and ask for help.

Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.

After my sophomore year, I decided to stop playing water polo. This tore me apart. Water polo had been a part of my life for almost seven years, and losing that was destructive to both my emotional psyche and my academic career. It took me months to move on after losing this piece of my identity. In order to move on, I focused more and more on academics. I found joy in both teaching and tutoring and received opportunities through Dr. Shifflett that I would never have had if I had continued playing. (On another note: I'm playing again. There was a coaching staff change and the new head coach asked me to return.)

What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

You only get one chance at any experience. Don't squander something that is handed to you and don't be afraid to work for something you want. You are building the foundation for the rest of your life. If you have cracks in your foundation, the structure you eventually want to build will never be stable.

What makes you a Spartan?

I never give up. Even if I'm struggling with something, I don't give in and quit. I ask for help, I move on, and I come back if I need to. I'm not afraid to fail. I'm not afraid to fight for what I believe in and what I want.


Nominated by Bethany Shifflett
Professor, Kinesiology

“While fully engaged as an athlete (starting goalie for water polo), Katelynn has carved out the time to serve as a tutor for her peers in challenging coursework, collaborate on, and present findings from, a year long research project with faculty in our department, and officiate water polo matches for schools in our region.”