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Alejandra Trumble is one of many who must juggle standard academic commitments with athletic ones, but only a select few are able to put one more thing on their plate: the role of a Teaching Assistant.

Credit: Carson Kahoe , Carson Kahoe

Stars on the field, stars in the classrooms.

For Penn’s student-athletes, excellence never seems to stop after time is called and the game is done. In the great balancing act that is being a student-athlete, not only do most athletes thrive, but they push their engagement beyond what is expected. This is the case for the student-athletes who not only take a full courseload while playing for the Red and Blue, but teach for the school as well.

Among Penn’s student-athlete TAs is senior epee fencer Alejandra Trumble, who serves as a TA for Anthropology 276, titled Ethnographic Approaches to Urban Athletics. As ANTH 276 is an Academically Based Community Service course (ABCS), Trumble’s primary job consists of helping her students prepare for a semester-long project involving the Young Quakers Community Athletics program. As an athlete aspiring to teach, the concept of community-involved learning seemed tailor-made for the epee squad captain.

“As an athlete, Young Quaker Community Athletics is appealing,” the fencer said. “It’s a way of getting involved in West Philadelphia and getting out of University City, because we’re so often isolated from Philly. Not to mention, it’s great to engage in your sport in a way that is not stressful.”

Also, serving as a TA is senior breaststroke specialist Cole Hurwitz, who is serving his second semester as a Math 104 TA. For the swimmer, it was the realization of being responsible for other students that drives him to maintain both his academic and athletic commitments.

“As an individual sometimes you can let an assignment slip because of you’re focusing on other [priorities],” the Oregon native said. “But as a TA, you can’t really let your recitation slip or not grade stuff. It’s not just you anymore, it’s 20-40 students who are relying on you.”

For athletes looking to TA in upcoming semesters, Hurwitz and Trumble prove that there is no limit to the type of class where an athlete can feasibly serve as a TA. Trumble’s duties for her anthropology class are vastly different than those of Hurwitz’s math class. Where Hurwitz conducts four recitation sections a week for around sixty math students, Trumble has no recitations and serves as the lone TA for a class of 10 students per semester. Where Hurwitz deals mainly with underclassman math students who take Math 104 to fulfill a general requirement, Trumble’s students can range from anthropology majors to athletes interested in furthering their investment in the integration of community outreach and athletics.

Nonetheless, both students have strived in all aspects of their time as Quakers. Both were adamant that as student-athletes, the balance was not easy, but there were more than adequate resources to help make their responsibilities feasible. For Trumble, her TA duties coincided with her primary program for her major, so her advisors did well to factor in her other commitments.

With Hurwitz, who schedules more teaching time for his students, he stressed the importance of utilizing all those hours that were once free-time.

“You shouldn’t have to be limited by the fact that you’re an athlete,” the swimmer said. “You have a lot more time in a day than you think. Even with these 20-plus hours of athletic commitments every week, you have these hours in a day that you are not necessarily working where you can schedule things.”

You could say easier said than done, but he’s doing it too.

As graduation approaches for this pair of senior standouts, their achievements as Quakers carry them to more than promising post-graduate prospects. Hurwitz received a fellowship to head to Scotland to receive his PhD in machine learning, and neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Trumble is currently weighing several offers with the intention of teaching English to middle school students, hopefully in the West Philly area.

One thing is for sure: no matter where they go from here, these athletes aren’t just at the top of their games, they’re at the top of their class as well.