Bold Strokes Take UA Swimmer to Oxford

April 01, 2011

Justine Schluntz was already a big name in campus sports. A nine-time All-American swimmer, Schluntz swam the first leg of the upset-victory 800 freestyle relay in the 2008 NCAA Championships, the race that set in motion the Wildcats' first NCAA swimming championship.

But sports honors are just the most publicized facet of this outstanding athlete, citizen and scholar. Schluntz also volunteered with Big Brother and Big Sisters. She's a peer counselor and is involved with Athletes in Action, a sports ministry on campus. Through Commitment to Athletes Total Success (C.A.T.S.), she's run the gamut from working with young students to distributing food on Thanksgiving weekend.

Add to that an impressive academic career — an Honors College alumna who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering — and you begin to understand how Schluntz recently became one of only 32 people in the country and less than 100 worldwide to win the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

Schluntz is currently working on a master's in mechanical engineering. Now, before completing that degree, she'll jet off to England to attend Oxford this fall for two or three years of study (the Rhodes Scholarship provides a all-expenses stipend of around $50,000 a year) before moving on to pursue a doctorate. With a research focus on experimental fluid dynamics, Schluntz said she was particularly drawn to the University of Oxford for its Tidal Energy Research Group.

For Schluntz, the road to Rhodes has been difficult and humbling — not academically so much as personally and physically. "I was selfish and cocky when I arrived at the UA," she told the Arizona Daily Star's Greg Hansen. "I don't like who I was then. I was OK at school, but things such as leadership and community service didn't cross my mind."

Then shoulder injuries a series of painful surgeries sidelined Schluntz from swimming and diving for more than a year and forced personal growth. "I realized there were things I needed to be proud of in my life other than just being a swimmer."

With that kind of personal transformation already under her belt, there's no telling what lies ahead for Schluntz. As she told the UA's La Monica Everett-Haynes, "I can't imagine what is going to change in the next four years, but I'm excited about the change that I know is going to happen."