KINGSTON, R.I. – May 13, 2008 – Jill Anderson was filled with doubt and other strong emotions as a freshman softball player at the University of Rhode Island. Her mother died of breast cancer just two months before classes started, and those close to her questioned the wisdom of her choice to enroll at URI as a Division I scholarship athlete.
The Cohoes, N.Y. resident was also growing frustrated about playing time in her first year on the team.
“Why URI,” Anderson said in a speech before fellow student-athletes honored earlier this year for being named to the dean’s list. “The question never died. Even worse, during those trying times, I didn’t have an answer for it.”
She has the answer now. “I realized that despite the countless number of people who questioned my decision to come here, despite my humble beginnings as a confused freshman, but maybe because of all that, at this point in my life I am right where I want to be,” said the outgoing captain of the softball team and starting pitcher.
Where she is at this moment of her life is at the top of her game. A dean’s list student every semester of her career who possesses a grade point average of 3.78, she will earn her bachelor’s degree in political science, with a minor in philosophy at URI’s 122nd Commencement on May 18.
Hoping to pursue a career as a lawyer, she’s been accepted to law schools at Pepperdine University, State University of New York at Buffalo, Northeastern University, Catholic University and Syracuse University, and is considering her many options.
Anderson’s resume reads like an accomplished young professional’s. During the summer of 2007, she was an administrative special projects intern for the New York State Unified Court System: Office of Labor Relations and in 2006, she was an executive intern to the general manager of the Tri-City Valley Cats minor league baseball team.
At URI earlier this spring, she was presented the 2008 Rainville Student Leadership Award, among the most prestigious awards at the University. She was named to the 2007 Atlantic 10’s Academic All-Conference First Team and she served as a peer advocate for URI’s Violence Prevention and Advocacy Services for two years and was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for four years.
With such demanding community service commitments and her outstanding academic record, it’s hard to believe that Anderson had time for 7 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. to midnight softball practices.
“It’s a world of difference from being a high school athlete,” Anderson said. “It’s like a job; it’s hard work. But it builds character and lifelong bonds. My teammates are my best friends, and I know they will be lifelong friends. You have to push each other and depend on each other.”
A member of URI’s Athletic Department’s Life Skills Advisory Board for three years, she also found time to serve as a URI Mentor/Tutor, working most recently with South Kingstown High School and middle school students.
“I have enjoyed the unique URI experience–great people and a great education, and I have loved every minute of it,” Anderson said.
Community involvement was nothing new to Anderson since her family placed aa high value on volunteering. “I left so much behind when I came here. With my mother’s death I felt as though I was leaving my family during a very difficult time. So I had to make sure that I didn’t waste my time here, that I made the most of my opportunities.”
While focusing on her new life at URI, she kept her father, David, and sister, Rachel, and her late mother, Donna, uppermost in her mind in other service activities, volunteering for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda’s Club Cancer Foundation and “Hoops and Pizza,” a mentoring program that connects poor high school student-athletes with varsity college athletes.
“You realize as you mature that there is a much bigger community out there, and it needs the help of every citizen,” Anderson said.
Reflecting on her last few days at URI, Anderson said, “I can’t believe that it’s been four years, but I am so excited about the next steps of my life. I made the most of my education here and the professors laid a great foundation for me.”
URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.