Josephson Expands Knowledge, Friendships through Basketball and Studying Abroad

By Katie Huber '13, Writer

SALEM, ORE. -- Becca Josephson ’14 returned from studying abroad in New Zealand on Nov. 11, 2012 — just four days before Willamette University’s first women's basketball game of the season.

Not only had Josephson missed the first month of practice, she also was returning to play for a new coach, Peg Swadener.

“When Peg came in as the new coach, I was really nervous about how she was going to react to the news that I was going abroad for a semester, because at that point I had already bought my plane tickets and it was going to happen,” she says. “I didn’t know if she was going to be OK with me playing when I got back.”

To Josephson’s relief, Swadener whole-heartedly supported her decision to study abroad and even helped Josephson catch up to her teammates through one-on-one coaching.

By January, Josephson’s determination on the court and in the weight room paid off, and she worked her way into the starting line-up in time for the first conference game.

Josephson played in 18 games during the season. She averaged 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

“As a coach, it is my job to help student-athletes accomplish their goals, and if one of their goals is to study abroad and play basketball, I am happy to do what I can to help them accomplish that,” Swadener says.

“Thanks to Becca for showing that it can be done, I look forward to encouraging more women’s basketball players to pursue this opportunity in the future.”

A Basketball Family

While studying in Dunedin, New Zealand, Josephson took an inorganic chemistry class that counted toward her major, went on a four-day backpacking trip, tried bungee jumping for the first time and played basketball for the University of Otago club team.

Even after her incredible, life-changing semester abroad, Josephson says she still couldn’t wait to return to Willamette.

From the first time she visited campus as a prospective student, Josephson says Willamette felt like home. Today, her teammates are some of her best friends.

“Coming in freshman year I was nervous about meeting people,” says Josephson, who is originally from Fair Oaks, Calif. “Being on the team gave me confidence. I realized that I have a group of people who will always have my back and will always be there, so that made me feel better about putting myself out there to meet other people.”

In addition to being her support system, Josephson says the basketball team taught her communication skills.

“Many of the girls on the team are completely different, and if we didn’t play together I don’t know if we would be friends,” she says. “Being on the basketball team has given me a chance to explore the ways that others think and figure out different perspectives, which has been really valuable.”

Swadener says the friendships her players develop and the interpersonal skills they gain as student athletes will continue to benefit them after graduation.

“Successful student-athletes need to develop time-management skills and effective and honest communication skills, while learning to take criticism, work with a team, and have their progress publicly measured. All of these qualities are very useful in the job market,” she says.

A Commitment to Excellence

Josephson has been selected to receive a Presidential Scholarship at Willamette. The scholarship provides a $2,500 stipend for summer research and will cover full tuition for one semester during Josephson’s senior year. Typically two students receive the award each year.

The funds support a research project that will include at least one semester as a senior. Josephson’s project will involve “Binding Interactions of Anti-Cancer Ruthenium-Based Drug NAMI-A with Nucleic Acids.”

After graduation, Josephson plans to attend medical school and pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

As a chemistry major (biochemistry track) with a 3.96 cumulative GPA, she has never let her sport interfere with her academic success and career aspirations.

“Becca truly gives 100 percent effort all of the time and she will do whatever we ask her to do for the betterment of the team,” Swadener says. “She understands the commitment needed to improve at this level both personally and as a team, and you just don’t find this combination of qualities every day.”

For Josephson, giving less than her best has never been an option.

“It doesn’t make sense to do something if you aren’t going to do it to the best of your ability,” Josephson says.

“All the things that I am involved with are things that are worthy of my time and that I am really passionate about, so there is no reason to do them halfway.”

Becca Josephson '14 has received a Presidential Scholarship at Willamette. She is majoring in chemistry (biochemistry track).

Becca Josephson '14 has received a Presidential Scholarship at Willamette. She is majoring in chemistry (biochemistry track).

Becca Josephson played in 18 games for the Bearcats this season. She joined the team prior to the first game after studying abroad in New Zealand.

Becca Josephson played in 18 games for the Bearcats this season. She joined the team prior to the first game after studying abroad in New Zealand.