Inspiring Wildcat: Koryn Russell '22

The Wildcat head with the words JWU Inspiring Wildcat around itKoryn Russell ’22 started ice skating as soon as she could walk — she’s no stranger to the hockey rink. The Plainfield, Illinois native has played hockey in her home state for 13 years, and it was the sport that led her to study at JWU Providence Campus as a Biology major. Incidentally, both the Women’s Ice Hockey program and the Biology program were still new when this inspiring Wildcat arrived at JWU, and she enjoyed the opportunity to help build both.

This year, Russell served as one of the captains of the team while also juggling her busy school schedule and the opportunity to get involved in a research project with one of her professors. The senior will graduate in December of this year and is enjoying every minute of her time with teammates and getting to be hands-on in the classroom — things that were temporarily taken away during the pandemic. I chatted with her about how she found her way to JWU, what it’s like to be a leader on the ice, and (most importantly) how she hopes to inspire others.

How did you first hear about JWU?

I actually first heard about JWU in recruitment for the Women’s Ice Hockey team. I took a tour of the school with the coach at the time and got to learn more about the city of Providence as well as the Biology program.

What made you want to study Biology?

I chose the Biology program for its inclusiveness. When I first toured JWU, I met a lot of the science department professors and they welcomed me in an inviting and warm manner. It was also even more interesting because the Women’s Ice Hockey program and the Biology program were established at the same time. A lot of the Women’s Ice Hockey alumni came here for the Biology program, so the professors love coming to support the team and are very understanding with hectic schedules.

You mentioned being recruited for the JWU Women’s Hockey team, but what actually cemented your decision to come to JWU and join the team?

I always loved being a part of building a program and getting the opportunity to meet new people from very different areas. What attracted me the most to the hockey team was the coaching staff and the team. They were very inviting and inclusive.

You’re one of the captains on the team – an important leadership role in hockey. What do you think is the most rewarding or important part of being a captain?

The most rewarding part of being a captain is having the opportunity to help my teammates. It’s always important to take other opinions or outlooks into perspective and consistently try to work together to accomplish everyone’s goals for the team. There is never a time where someone’s perspective on a certain play or idea should not be heard or used and, as a captain, I make sure to listen and act to benefit the team. 

Below: Russell (background right) enjoying time on the ice with teammates.
Koryn Russell with teammates on the ice

You had the opportunity to get involved in an interesting research project with Associate Professor Nicole Urban, Ph.D. last semester. What did this project entail and how did you get involved?

The research project with Dr. Urban was an incredible opportunity that I got last semester, and it focused on new ideas for different medical devices. I first applied for the position over the summer and could not wait to get started. Over the last semester, we worked on an assistive device for neurological therapeutics that incorporates touch-sensitive fabric and hand-eye coordination. I have also come up with new ideas for the incoming researchers to help with the development of assistive communication and fine motor skills. I volunteer with the new incomers this semester and help in any way I can.

How has COVID impacted your schoolwork and hockey? How did you overcome the challenges it brought?

COVID has definitely been a very challenging hardship over the past couple of years. It has given me the opportunity to appreciate learning in a hands-on, face-to-face environment, but it also taught me the benefits of learning at home and separating a once relaxing setting with a more serious studying one. COVID had also taken away my opportunity to play hockey last year with my team, and although it was a very disappointing experience not being able to play games or get on the ice as much, it has made me appreciate everything I got to do this year with my teammates and the game.

This series is about Wildcats who are inspiring. How do you hope to inspire others (such as out on the ice with your team or with your work in the classroom)? 

The best way to prove you are a leader is by showing it. I hope to inspire others by showing how I accomplish things by never giving up when faced with adversity. No matter how tempting quitting may seem, it’s important to remember your end goals.

What or who inspires you? Why?

The people that inspire me the most are my parents — both in separate ways. My father never gives up on anything he does. If he is working on a project, he finds every possible angle to make sure it succeeds. My mother is the most hardworking person I know. She is amazing at multitasking, planning, running a business and so much more. I get all of my greatest qualities from both of them. 

An inspiring Wildcat like you must have big plans. What is a goal or dream job you hope to pursue after graduation?

My goals after graduation are to conduct research in the medical field. I hope to receive the opportunity to research in the field of genetics relating to neurological diseases and afterward take on the pursuit in the medical field. I plan to go to medical school and specialize in neurology with the focus of helping people with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and more.

Feeling inspired? Take charge just like Koryn and go for those big goals!

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Koryn Russell on the ice with her hockey stick