Hometown: Yorba Linda, Calif.
Big picture: Softball center fielder Kristin Scharkey, a four-year starter and 2012 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America Scholar-Athlete, is also an accomplished writer, having written for Timeout Chicago, Softball Magazine and ESPN Rise Magazine. She also writes on her own blog (“Schark Bytes”) for Northwestern Athletics. She volunteered as an English teacher at a nonprofit in Musanze, Rwanda, in summer 2012 and leads a female student-athletes’ Bible studies group for Northwestern’s Athletes in Action group. Scharkey, who is engaged to Wildcat football player Mike Jensen, began pursuing a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction at Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies in the spring.
Why Northwestern: “I just fell in love with the coaches, the team and the program. I don’t think there’s a better combination of athletics and academics than at Northwestern.
“I have developed and grown in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve grown in how I play the game, as a person getting to meet so many different people and as a member of a team of strong women who are so different but are celebrated for their differences. Northwestern has really shaped who I am, guided me to where I am today and given me a starting block to jump from.”
On the writing life: “I wrote a piece about the 40th anniversary of Title IX last summer. [USA Today columnist] Christine Brennan [J80, GJ81] has been a mentor for me for four years, and getting to touch base with her and all of these women who have changed the face of sports was awesome. Talking with those influential women was something that really hit close to home for me as a student-athlete.” (For more on Brennan, see "Widening the Playing Field," spring 2008.)
Favorite softball moment: “We had to win the last six games in 2012 to make the tournament. We won out and knew we had to wait and see if the committee would pick us. We all packed into the little living room in the softball house off campus in Evanston to watch the selection show. All of a sudden Northwestern came up in the Texas region. The house was shaking, and people were jumping around, crying, laughing and screaming. I’ll never forget that weekend, both that moment and the games that followed in Texas.”
On volunteering in Rwanda: “I felt really strongly that God was calling me to serve overseas. That door opened up. I had some friends of friends running a nonprofit school in Rwanda. I taught English and test prep at that school and volunteered at a preschool and a school for the deaf.
“The experience was life changing. That’s so cliché to say, but it changed my perspective on so many things. It’s easy to go over there and say, ‘We’re so blessed in America,’ and to be taken aback by the poverty. As time went on, I was more surprised by the joy Rwandans have in the midst of what we would say is nothing. I was so challenged by that.”