After four years and a bachelor’s degree in speech, language, and hearing sciences from the University of Connecticut, thrower Mikyla Rodgers from South Huntington, New York, knew that her extra year of eligibility, granted due to the pandemic, gave her an opportunity not only to extend her time as an athlete, but also have a great start to graduate school.

Rodgers tentatively started track and field in her freshman year of high school to stay in shape during the off-season for volleyball, her main sport. A lifelong athlete, she demonstrated a clear ability in track, and as a high school senior, college recruitment offers came her way. “‘Oh, I’m pretty good at this. I actually like it.’ That’s when I made it my main sport,” she said.

As a developing track and field athlete in high school, she didn’t really know what throwing was—it encompasses the discus, shotput, javelin, hammer, and weight—but a coach encouraged her to try it. “It ended up working out,” Rodgers said. “Once I got to college, I focused on hammer and weight throw with a little bit of shot put.”

The weight is her best indoor event and hammer the best in outdoor competition. Being part of the athletic program shaped her positive UConn experience, but when deciding where to go for graduate school, she opted for a city environment. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Howard University—one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—in speech language pathology, with the goal of becoming speech pathologist.

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“I wanted to experience HBCU culture,” Rodgers said. “Definitely, a change in environment being at an HBCU. It’s a smaller, homier feel…It’s been good seeing a lot of people that look like you all the time. People have the same mindset as you. You’re not really arguing about different race topics. I like the area (Washington, D.C.). I like the campus. The athletics have been good as well.” 

Being a graduate student (she will graduate May 2024) and athlete has required Rodgers to double down on time management. “I don’t really get to practice with my team as much,” she noted. “There are a lot of solo practices…making sure that I’m doing what I have to do to be the best athlete I can and making sure I’m staying on top of my studies to be the best student I can.

“Being an athlete gives you skills you can apply anywhere,” she added. “Time management, teamwork, balance, and organization (as an athlete)…prepared me.”

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