SAAC Spotlight: Montana State Billings' Kennedy Juranek
Juranek played in 95 seats for MSUB in 2022. She earned both Academic All-GNAC and College Sports Communications Academic All-District Honors.
Juranek played in 95 seats for MSUB in 2022. She earned both Academic All-GNAC and College Sports Communications Academic All-District Honors.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Part of a regular series.

Throughout the year, uses this space to profile conference student-athletes who are members of their respective institutions’ Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). In addition to providing feedback on the student-athlete experience, conference and institutional SAAC members also offer input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect student-athletes’ lives on NCAA member institution campuses.

Name: Kennedy Juranek
Sport: Volleyball
Institution: Montana State Billings
Year: Junior
Major: Elementary Education
Hometown: Wilsonville, Oregon

Why did you choose to attend MSUB?: I chose to go to Montana State Billings because of the beauty of the land surrounding the campus. Being in Billings allows us to be close to many different hiking and beautiful places to travel to. We are an hour from Red Lodge which offers skiing, hiking spots and drives through the beautiful Beartooth Mountains. We are also less than a three-hour drive from Yellowstone! Escaping into nature is something I will never take for granted!

I also chose Montana State Billings because of the perfect size of the campus. Because we are smaller, it allows us to know most people on campus. No matter where you go, you will always have a friendly face welcoming you! The athletic community is like family. I have made many friendships that will last a lifetime.

What is your favorite class you have taken in college and why?: My favorite class has been my literature class for kindergarten to eighth grade. My professor for this class is amazing and is someone that has become a mentor for me. We learn about the different approaches that we can take to teach students of all ages and learning types. Because of this class, I can confidently teach my students who might need extra help with reading and I can pick out books that my students will love and cherish that can be taught important valuable lessons.

Who is your favorite professor so far and why?: My favorite professor is Lynette Schwalbe. I would rate her 1,000 out of 10 because not only is she helpful as I find my way through my education program but she is extremely personable. She knows when I have bad days and is here to help me through them. She always is an email away for me when I need her, whether that is for my education or for me personally!

How many years were you involved in SAAC?: This is my first year.

What made you want to be involved in SAAC?: I want to make a difference. I want SAAC to continue to grow for the rest of the time that I can be involved in it. I want to help my university and its athletes, whether that is growing through social media, helping the captains and leaders grow within their teams or helping athletes mentally. Being a student-athlete carries so much more weight to its name than most people think. Not only are we expected to perform well on the court, field, or track, but we are expected to carry exceptional grades. That puts much weight on our shoulders and can put so much stress on the athlete. I've experienced it myself. I want to bring awareness to that and help others who might be struggling.

How do you feel participating in SAAC will help you in life after you graduate?: SAAC offers so many important tools that I can keep in my tool belt for life. It has already taught me how to become a better leader. Although this is my first year, I am excited to grow as a human being. I am longing for an opportunity in SAAC to offer me the position to help others when I become a teacher. I have to lead a classroom of 20 kids and SAAC will put me in the position to do this.

What is the most important thing you've learned from balancing the demands of athletics and academics?: Time management skills are the most important thing that I've learned from balancing the demands of athletics and academics. It is crucial to know how to split your time between practices, games and homework. If you wait to do your homework until the last minute, it will be additional stress that you might feel during practice which will affect how you play. It is extremely important to stay on top of your work! Hence the reason student in the phrase "student-athlete" comes before the athlete.
What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome during your collegiate career?: The biggest thing I have learned over my last three years is sacrifice. That word means a lot to me. You have to make sacrificial choices within your career, whether that is giving up something for the growth of your team or being able to push your team from whatever position you might be in. That might mean that you're playing six rotations, three rotations, a serving sub or on the bench. No matter what, you have a role and a responsibility to your team.
What does it mean to you to be a Division II student-athlete?: When people ask me about being a Division II student-athlete, I think of the words underdog, gritty and relentless. Especially in the GNAC, all of us volleyball players are gritty. We want the ball and we want to win. We are here for the love of the game. We are here following our dreams and growing as people in the meantime. We are making crucial relationships as we grow in our sport. We push each other in order to grow but we love one another in the meantime. We have a compassionate love for the people we play with and the school name on the back of our jerseys. Those are Division II student-athletes.
What is the best advice you would give to an incoming freshman?: My best advice for freshmen is not to take any moment for granted. I have just finished my junior year and it blows my mind that I will be a senior next year. To be a student-athlete is something that a lot of people wished they could call themselves. It is an honor and flies by so fast. Put your everything into the sport you are playing and give it your all. By the end of your career, you should have no regrets.
What is your favorite sports-related moment?: My favorite sports-related moment was our "Pink Night" against Alaska. I was able to honor my mother who beat three types of cancer.
If I could spend the day with one person (past or present), who would it be (and why)?: I would love to have coffee with Kobe Bryant and talk about his "mamba mentality." I would ask him what to do in some sticky situations that I find myself in and ask him how he became the athlete, family man and human he was.
Favorite Sports Team: Portland Trail Blazers.
Favorite Athlete(s): I don't have a favorite athlete, but I do like a lot of professional NBA players who show relentless and grit. Some of these athletes are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Damian Lillard (duh), etc.