Women athletes on campus talk being STEM majors


Rob Le Cates

After number 20 Emily Wilcox, a junior middle blocker, reconvenes with her team after successfully blocking a spike from UT Martin Skyhawk players during the volleyball game at Lantz Arena Friday afternoon. Wilcox had 6 blocks and scored 7.5 points. The Panthers won 3-2 against the Skyhawks.

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

There are 10 women’s sports teams here at Eastern and quite a few of the women student athletes find empowerment outside of their sport through their STEM degrees.

According to NCAA data that was released in March 2022, in Division I athletics, 18 percent of women student athletes are pursuing a STEM degree.

One of the women student athletes here at Eastern that falls into the 18 percent is sophomore outside hitter for the volleyball team, Lilli Amettis.

Amettis is pursuing a degree in biological sciences and her passion for science started in high school where she was able to do hands on work such as labs and other assignments.

Part of being a student athlete is being a student that is battling a rigorous schedule. Amettis said that the coursework that comes along with being a STEM major can be a lot at times.

“You just have to stay focused and maintain a set schedule so you don’t fall behind or miss anything,” Amettis said.

Amettis said that being a woman in STEM makes her feel confident because being an athlete and a STEM major at the same time is hard but being able to do it is a good feeling for her.

Her advice to women who are both nonathletes and athletes who are wanting to pursue a degree ins STEM is simple; do it.

“If you feel intimidated by the workload or the fact that it is a time consuming major, it will get easier,” Amettis said. “You just have to keep a positive mindset though it all and believe that you are capable of doing it.”

Number 14 Lilli Amettis, a freshman outside hitter and opposite hitter, dances in excitement with teammates after scoring a point during the volleyball game against the Illinois State University Redbirds at Lantz Arena Wednesday evening. The Panthers lost 3-0 to the Redbirds. (Hannah Fergurson)

A fellow teammate to Amettis, senior middle blocker Emily Wilcox, is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering.

Wilcox said that when she chose to become a Panther, electrical engineering stood out as the best option as a major.

For Wilcox, her Division I sport is more than a 20 hour commitment per week and studying for electrical engineering takes up a significant amount of her time.

“As I get to my upper division level courses, my major has only become more time consuming,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox is just one of the three girls in her major and that alone gives her a sense of empowerment.

“I have found that I do not have it any easier or harder than my classmates,” Wilcox said. Also being an athlete to my classmates does not mean much, so that is just something that I do and focus on outside of class.”

Junior forward for the Eastern women’s basketball team, Haley Cameron, like Amettis, is also pursuing a degree in biological sciences and she chose her major over other majors because she has always wanted to be a dentist.

Cameron echoed Wilcox by saying that trying to manage a heavy work load on top of playing Division I basketball is not easy, but worth it.

“A lot of schools won’t allow you to major in majors like biology because of the heavy workload, but our coaches here are really good about scheduling practices around our classes,” Cameron said.

Cameron said that her advice to women who want to pursue a STEM major is that it gets hard but it is quite the accomplishment in the end.

“I would just say that it does get hard, but being able to accomplish playing both basketball and completing this major is such an accomplishment in the end,” Cameron said. “I’m not fully done yet, but knowing I am so close feels so good, and just stick it out because it will pay off in the end.”

Junior outfielder and pitcher for the Eastern women’s softball team, Olivia Price, is pursuing a degree in exercise science.

Pitcher Olivia Price attempts to catch a line drive up the middle during the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday afternoon against SIUE. The Panthers won the game 6-5 in 11 innings, with Price picking up the win after pitching 8.1 shutout innings in relief. (Rob Le Cates)

Price said she has always been interested in how the body functions and helping others to not be stuck in an office.

Price also said that as an athlete, it is important to her to know what her body does and why.

The hands on experience, Price said, has led her to believe that exercise science is the correct major for her.

There has been a huge benefit for Price in being both an athlete and an exercise science major. She said that being able to break down the mechanics of athletes and what they do is a huge advantage.

“Different courses intertwine overtime and it makes it easier to piece together everything I hindsight,” Price said. “I use my knowledge to not only help myself but to help my teammates if they ask me questions.”

Price said that regardless of if someone is athlete or not, pursing their interests is the most important factor.

“Being that one needle in a haystack for STEM gives you a target on your back, but that’s just motivation to prove everyone wrong,” Price said. “At first, it can be intimidating, but as time goes on, it becomes easier as you get to know people within your department.”