Comfort. Opportunity. Growth. These are a few of Olivia’s words for Valpo. A second-generation Valpo student, Olivia was more than a little familiar with the University prior to her decision to attend, but what she didn’t fully appreciate was her ability to do it all at Valpo — premier academics, Division I athletics, Lutheran Leaders, and community engagement.
“Olivia has taken full advantage of the diverse opportunities at Valpo through academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities,” says her brother, Matthew Janke ’17. “She is pursuing her passions in chemistry and biology, developing lasting relationships with her professors and soccer teammates, and volunteering throughout the Valpo community.”
With alumni for parents and a brother as a current student at the time, Valpo was top of mind when Olivia commenced her college search because she saw her brother’s positive experiences here.
Olivia has continued her family’s legacy, yet is blazing her own path.
“College is a huge change, but I’ve embraced that change and been open to new experiences,” Olivia says. “Valpo is a place of opportunity. Everybody can find their niche, and I have.”
Hailing from Canton, Michigan, Olivia is a chemistry major, biology minor, and part of the pre-medical arts program. From the subject matter to the small class sizes and expert professors, Olivia, a self-proclaimed nerd, loves being in the classroom. She has built close relationships with her professors and explored her passions. Olivia has learned to manage her time, advocate for herself, and seek out assistance if needed.
Olivia has found support in those around her — classmates, professors, teammates, and coaches. Members of the soccer team, known for their hard work on and off the field, are consistently recognized for their high academic achievement. The vibe on the team is academics first, and this stems from the top down — Head Coach John Marovich expects his players to focus on classroom excellence first and foremost. He understands and embraces the Valpo experience.
“The way Olivia goes about her business with such passion and commitment inspires people to help her reach her goals,” Coach Marovich says. “It is her mentality to continue to push even when others aren’t watching, her willingness to be uncomfortable, and her ability to grow from every experience that have allowed her to excel both athletically and academically.”
Two-year captain of her high school team, honorable mention all-conference choice as a junior, and second team all-state honoree as a senior are just a few of the many soccer accolades Olivia secured prior to Valpo. She knew she’d be joining players who were just as fast, just as strong, and who had also been the best in high school, but it was still a reality check for Olivia when she was redshirted in her first year.
Faced with this adversity, Olivia began to reflect upon the personal significance of soccer. It had become part of her identity; when people heard “Olivia Janke,” they thought soccer. “I can’t. I have soccer.” was a regular utterance throughout her adolescence.
But there were reasons she had centered her life around soccer — friends, camaraderie, competition, and teamwork, to name a few. Not seeing any playing time as a freshman paled in comparison to the thought of being without a team for the first time in nearly 15 years.
“Being uncomfortable isn’t always a bad thing; it’ll push you to grow and change yourself,” Olivia says. “You may not even notice it, but it’s happening”
It all came down to attitude for Olivia. She challenged herself to work harder on the soccer field, and, more importantly, sharpened her focus on academics and gained a strong start out of the gate.
“Olivia is a person of character and value, whose greatest influence comes in her treatment of and interaction with others,” Coach Marovich says. “She lifts up her teammates’ spirits with encouragement, inspiring confidence and perseverance. She gives as much, if not more, of herself to others as she does to herself. I am very proud of Olivia and honored to be her coach.”
At Valpo, Olivia has been conscious not to overload herself but determined not to limit herself either. Due to her demonstrated excellence in general chemistry, Olivia was selected as a peer learner to assist students during lectures and lead weekly chemistry study sessions.
And, upon her acceptance into the Lutheran Leaders Intern and Scholarship Program, Olivia was in communication with both Coach Marovich and Debra Berg ’86 Albers ’13 MALS, director of church relations, to gauge the possibility of competing in Division I athletics, being a Lutheran Leader, and excelling academically. The response was one of complete “support and understanding.”
“There are so many great people at Valpo that want you to succeed,” Olivia says. “It’s a place of opportunity, where you can focus on you and developing yourself for the best. There aren’t many places where you can do that.”
As part of the Lutheran Leaders cohort, Olivia spends several hours each week meeting with her fellow Lutheran Leaders, discussing leadership and faith and planning the Lang Leadership Retreat, designed to engage Lutheran high school students in a community of faith, service, and learning, as well as interning in the Valparaiso community.
“Olivia is an active and thoughtful participant in our Lutheran Leader weekly meetings, where we discuss matters of faith and what it means to be a Christian leader,” Debra says. “I know Olivia will serve church and society in profound and meaningful ways after leaving Valpo.”
Olivia interned at Immanuel Lutheran food pantry last year and currently serves at the VNA Hospice Center, where she fields calls, coordinates events, and engages with patients. Growing up, Olivia’s parents instilled in her the importance of treating others kindly and helping those less fortunate.
“Valpo is a very service-oriented university. The tone on campus is ‘what can you do for others’,” Olivia says. “That resonates with me as I believe my purpose is to help others. Volunteering allows me to interface with people and inspire change. It fills me up like nothing else.”
In her short time on campus, Olivia has learned that Valpo will allow her to pursue multiple interests and further her purpose. She has yet to find herself uttering, “I can’t. I have soccer.”
Plans for her future are currently undetermined, but Olivia has recently been thinking of pursuing pediatric oncology. Wherever her path may take her, it is evident she will be a positive light to all those she encounters.