Iowa volleyball sophomore Erin Leppek works through tough schedule


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Only one-third of biomedical-engineering majors at the UI are women. And Erin Leppek is the only one on the Iowa volleyball team.

Leppek has just begun her sophomore year and is under a heavy workload as are her biomedical-engineering peers. Most of her time is spent studying or doing homework, but school isn’t the only thing she is heavily involved in.

“I took 17 [semester] hours my freshman year,” Leppek said. “I had no expectations and wasn’t too nervous because I had no idea what to expect. It was definitely hard. I wouldn’t recommend taking 17 hours [during the volleyball] season.”

According to the UI Biomedical Engineering, the program focuses on solving “open-ended problems with medical relevance.” Studying for this daunting profession, Leppek was always busy her freshman year, but becoming an engineer is a dream she’s had since she was a child in Michigan.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be an engineer,” Leppek said. “My dad is an engineer. Iowa has a small College of Engineering that is really good because you get to know the professors and make connections. Iowa was definitely a good place to go.”

As a freshman, Leppek had to adjust to the hardships of being a Division-I athlete. In addition to daily practice, her days were filled with engineering math and chemistry classes. Trying to balance two demanding schedules isn’t easy, especially your first year in a new city.

“I don’t know if I did balance them appropriately,” Leppek said. “I had 7:30 a.m. classes and then practice until 6:30 or 7 [p.m.]; it was a whole 12 hours of hard work.”

Staying focused on school and practice can take its toll, but Leppek stayed balanced. The 6-0 outside hitter tried to complete as much homework as possible at the beginning of the week to clear her schedule for volleyball later on. This organization was something her coach noticed and praised.

“Even as a freshman, she had time management figured out and school figured out,” head coach Sharon Dingman said. “To watch her manage her schedule and volleyball as a freshman was pretty remarkable. She’s the perfect example for student athletes that need to figure it out, she figured it out before she even got here.”

Even though classes aren’t usually the topic of discussion during practice, Leppek’s teammates noticed the hard work she puts in for school. Having one of the hardest majors on the team and still being able to go to practice and perform during matches inspires teammates to manage their lives more efficiently.

“Even we upperclassmen can learn from her as well,” junior and team captain Bethany Yeager said.

“The freshmen know that Erin does what’s right and knows what needs to be done. [The team] looks up to her because she is a good role model for us to know what we need to do [as Division-I athletes].”

After Leppek’s four years in school she’ll have two accomplishments under her belt: A degree in biomedical engineering, along with four years of volleyball in arguably the country’s hardest conference — the Big Ten.

“I think it definitely says something about your character and work ethic,” Leppek said. “If you can go four years playing a Division-I sport, graduating and getting your diploma in four years, it says a lot about how hard you work and your commitment to yourself.”

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