Track star, teacher, outstanding student to graduate again from URI

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North Attleboro resident to earn master’s degree May 16

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 6, 2009 – Most athletes wouldn’t consider a back injury and a car accident that probably aggravated it strokes of good luck.

But looking back, North Attleboro, Mass. resident Caitlin Hurley said the injury and subsequent accident might have been the keys that opened to the door to graduate school at the University of Rhode Island.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from URI in 2007, Hurley will again walk across the commencement stage in Kingston on May 16, this time to accept her master’s degree in the same discipline.

A consistent member of the Dean’s List as an undergraduate, Hurley joined a powerhouse women’s track team that won indoor and outdoor Atlantic 10 Conference titles in her freshman and sophomore years.

“I was actually a part of the 4X100-meter and 4X200-meter relay teams that still hold the school records,” Hurley said.

“It was amazing because we had all of these excellent athletes and to come in as a freshman and actually place at the A-10s in the 55 meters was surprising. I was on the 4X100 team, which won the conference title. It was cool to be the little freshman with all of these upper classmen, and competing against all of the other sprinters in the A-10s was pretty exciting.”

But at the end of her sophomore year, she began experiencing tightness in her back. Things only got worse when she was rear-ended by another car while she was stopped at a traffic light.

“It was frustrating, but I used my junior year to get healthy, regroup and concentrate on school,” Hurley said. “I still went to practices and meets.

“When I came back in my senior, I had my best year ever,” she said. “I was running great and I came close to beating the school record in the 55 meters.”

As she neared completion of her undergraduate program in her senior year, she began to hear from advisers that she should consider pursuing a master’s degree. Because of her injury, she had an extra year of eligibility to run track and would be able to apply that eligibility to her first year in graduate school.

An outstanding student, she finished her undergraduate program with a 3.53 overall grade point average and 3.6 in her major.

But her decision didn’t come without some additional pain. In September of 2007, she had arthroscopic surgery on her left knee. She acknowledges that her final seasons of indoor and outdoor track were not as strong as she would have liked, but she has no regrets.

“I loved being an athlete here, the whole athletic community, administrators and the other athletes, it’s just a great support system,” Hurley said. “I made my best friends that I’ll have forever. My coaches (Laurie Feit-Melnick and her husband, John Melnick), having them as second parents almost, made my experience what it is today. They are the reason I wanted to stay.”

The graduate of North Attleboro High School said the kinesiology program provides excellent one-on-one education. “One of the other big reasons I wanted to go to graduate school was to get an assistantship so I could work closer with my professors.

One of my advisers, Mike Scott, told me there aren’t many athletes who can do athletics and graduate school. It was nice to hear from people I respected that they thought I could manage both.”

As a graduate student she taught some labs and the department’s URI101 freshman introduction class and is thinking about pursing a doctorate.

“Two years of teaching labs and undergraduate classes really opened my eyes to the profession of higher education learning. I just like being able to have that open door policy where students can come and ask a question about a lab. I have URI101 students from my first year of teaching coming to me with questions. The fact that they are comfortable with me says that I did my job as a URI101 instructor.”

Before pursing another degree, however, Hurley would like to work in the wellness, fitness field.

“I might go into the clinical field, so maybe I’ll be in a hospital cardiac rehab center or maybe I’ll do some youth fitness work.”

No matter where she ends up, Hurley won’t forget URI–the athletic department, her teammates, and her professors.

“Kinesiology Professor Deb Riebe has been amazing to me, and as I said my coaches, John and Laurie, my second parents. I am not sure I would have gotten through six years without them.”

Pictured above

North Attleboro, Mass. resident Caitlin Hurley will earn her master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Rhode Island May 16. URI Department of Communications and Marketing photo by Nora Lewis