Third in the state in high school doubles says a couple of things. It says you have a real shot at being able to play Division I tennis, while you will likely do something else professionally. Paige Heuer ’17 understood this from the start. Her drive to not just storm the net but her studies has her at the top of her game in another arena few can master.
Joining one of the prestigious Big Four accounting firms not long after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, the company Ernst & Young (EY) is taking a gamble on Paige, just as Valparaiso University did four years ago. Paige credits the University’s encouragement of balancing athletics and studies as playing a critical role as she is set to start her career.
“Valpo has great academics, including our College of Business being AACSB accredited, and I was able to play Division I athletics,” Paige says, as she reflects on the key factors that went into her decision to attend Valpo. During her time here, she’s thrived in both areas.
During the final match of the 2016–2017 season, Paige earned her 41st doubles win, finishing eighth in program history. It seems fitting Paige is known for playing doubles, because she’ll be the first to say her academic success didn’t come from going it alone. She was a leader of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and a member of a sorority and the Order of Omega, and she says the Valpo community has helped her become the person she is today.
“Kathleen Hebble ’17 was my doubles partner and she was also my roommate,” says Paige, who grew up in Munster, Ind., less than an hour from campus. “She puts so much hard work into her classes, and it’s really the whole team that feeds off each other when it comes to studying.” During a team trip to Northern Kentucky — a drive of more than four hours — Paige estimates that three of the hours they’d all be studying.
With the women’s tennis team ranked third in GPA among all Valpo Athletics programs last year, their wish seems to have mostly been granted. But Paige says this winning attitude doesn’t happen without team leadership behind them. “Our coach is always making sure we put grades first,” she says, “and reminds us what we’re here for. We have to remember that we’re student-athletes — not ‘athlete students’.”
Some may wonder how accounting can compete with the excitement of tennis, but it’s where it rivals it in mindset that partly attracted Paige.
“Tennis is about taking several steps to winning a point most of the time,” she says. “You may have to hit one shot, to lead to another shot, and maybe the next one is the winner. Accounting has its process as well. You have to focus and not get ahead of yourself.”
Paige says faculty have only helped her enthusiasm for the subject, particularly noting Professor Marc LeClere’s advice. “He’s taught me for multiple accounting courses, and he’s been there whenever I’ve had questions,” she says. “Throughout my internship, he gave me many pointers and thoughts on how to be helpful to the staff and stand out in the best way possible.”
Even with those advantages, it was a nerve-racking moment equal to situations on the court when Paige knew the decision of whether she would be hired was forthcoming. When she found out she would be joining the EY team full-time as FSO (Financial Services Office) Tax Staff, with a strong focus on banks, she once again experienced a payoff from hard work and determination.
“Securing this position is a relief and allows me to look ahead now that I know where I’ll be,” Paige says. “I also have a lot more studying to do in order to become a CPA. But it’s exciting!”
Even though she may be trading in much of her court time for the pressure of tax time and financial statements, Paige isn’t quite ready to retire her racket.
“My mom played college tennis, and we’re playing together in a league,” Paige says. “I may have to change the priority I put on the game, but I don’t have to stop. Tennis taught me so much and made me better at other things. I appreciate the University giving me the chance to go further in my experiences in the sport.”
Paige even admits to having a dream of possibly opening up her own tennis facility. Of course, if being good at a sport were enough to run a corresponding business, many athletes wouldn’t be able to share their tales of woe. Still, many of them didn’t have the kind of background that an accounting degree and Big Four employment can provide.
“Paige is ‘The Package’,” Professor LeClere says. “An exemplary student who combines outstanding academic work with D1 athletics, all wrapped up in an engaging, ebullient, and outgoing personality.”
Regardless of whether her future career includes her sport, Paige is positioned well for the next shot.