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Sydney Mukes: Lessons On Resiliency From A Student Athlete

Think back to the life of a student. Juggling school, extracurriculars, work and internships… the building years can be intense, especially when you are trying to set the stage for a fulfilling and impactful post-grad career. Add graduating in the middle of a pandemic to the mix, and you have a recipe for an extraordinarily hardworking, versatile, and determined group of people. Future employers, keep your eye on the class of 2020!

Success Labs’ intern, Sydney Mukes, just completed her degree at Louisiana State University as part of this intrepid class. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Leadership and Human Resource Development, Sydney also spent four years as a Division I student athlete with LSU Volleyball. In her junior and senior years she was selected for the Jesse Owens Award, which goes to a minority student athlete with the highest GPA. She will return to LSU in the fall as a Master’s student in the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, and is ultimately looking forward to a career in organizational and leadership consulting. With her experience performing in sports and academics at an elite level, she hopes to encourage and coach others to success in whatever they’re setting out to do.

Although just starting out in her professional life, Sydney has already put to practice the kind of network building skills that we encourage professionals at every stage to utilize. As an undergraduate she made an effort to get to know the professors in her program, including Success Labs’ Consultant Eddie Gibbons, PhD, and LSU LHRD Director Reid Bates, PhD. Her initiative in talking about the graduate program early on, and making an effort to pursue permission to take graduate courses as an undergrad, made her name and face a known quantity in the department – and eventually led to her being awarded a graduate teaching assistantship that typically only goes to PhD students.

Sydney credits her set of expectations as an athlete with her mindset to excel. When schools began to shut down in the wake of Coronavirus, LSU offered students a pass/fail option for their classes. Sydney knew she wanted to see her work through in the same way she had started, stating that as an athlete “it’s engrained in you to finish the job, not just take a pass.”

For most students, a time of celebration is their reward for getting through the grueling college years. Social distancing and quarantine made that impossible this year, but Sydney and her family made the best of it, staging an impromptu Senior photoshoot in her Dad’s oversized LSU sweatshirt. Everyone is being called to pivot and be resilient during this challenge period, and graduating seniors offer a great perspective on how to seize an uncertain future. In Sydney’s case, her semester turned on its head when she had to move off campus, travel back home to Ohio, keep up with her 18 hours of undergrad and graduate coursework, and maintain her internship. She likens the experience to managing school and sports travel – and needing to keep yourself in line when all you want to do is binge-watch Netflix. In that sense, the discipline that athletics has taught her has already translated to her life and career.

While Sydney is a little anxious about what the future holds, she’s mostly excited to continue her education at LSU, learn from the leadership and organizational professionals at LHRD and Success Labs, and continue taking every opportunity she can. “I’m grateful that I didn’t choose to take a pass in my classes and still stayed with opportunities like my internship. I think that as a young professional you can never take too many opportunities to broaden your network.” She hopes that this perspective will help her in the future when she’s applying for other positions, and notes that on the positive side, as the workforce and business environment continues to change, the HR field will likely be on the rise.

Although she’s looking forward to the future, Sydney is incredibly grateful for the journey she’s been on thus far. Her path to LSU, Success Labs, and her future career started in high school, when she fell in love with the family atmosphere, beautiful campus, and supportive administration offered by LSU and the SEC – and like many out-of-state students, raves about the warm weather and inviting culture. Sydney recognized that Fran Flory, LSU Volleyball Head Coach for 22 years, cares about her students on and off the court – and it was that kind of support that enabled her to excel. “It’s going to be so different to not be an athlete and be with my team every day. I’ve been playing volleyball since the fourth grade and will miss the locker room and team banter… but I know that I left everything on the court. I’m excited to close that chapter and use what I learned to succeed in the professional world.”

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