Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.
A gymnast starting at age 3, Heather Udowitch says pursuing her Master of Sports Law and Business (MSLB) degree at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is helping her apply years as an athlete to becoming a leader in sports.
She also learned something else very important – how to balance her life while staying focused on her dreams.
“I successfully completed my collegiate eligibility when I graduated with my bachelor’s degree (from ASU); therefore, this (time at ASU Law) has been the first in my life that I am not competing in gymnastics,” said Udowitch, who hails from Dallas, is a Sun Devil Athletics graduate assistant and will be pursuing her JD at ASU Law this fall after she earns her MSLB this spring.
“I started gymnastics when I was 3 years old, began two-a-day workouts when I turned 9, and verbally committed to ASU Gymnastics when I was a sophomore in high school. Therefore, the sport has held a significant role throughout the majority of my life.”
Udowitch says the Allan “Bud” Selig Sports Law and Business program at ASU Law helped her to execute the skills she learned in gymnastics and apply them to her professional career aspirations.
“Additionally, I have built lifelong friendships with my classmates who share many of my same passions and hobbies,” said Udowitch, a 2019 Selig Sports Law and Business Scholar and a 2019 NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Graduate Scholarship recipient. “Their support has helped me transition out of my athletic career, and I now view myself as more than an athlete.”
Question: Why did you choose ASU Law?
Answer: I chose ASU Law to pursue my Master of Sports Law and Business because of the numerous notable professors and advisory board members. This program offers courses about topics I am passionate about (that) are taught by industry leaders, so I was excited to learn how to articulate various concepts and opportunities. Similarly, the MSLB Advisory Board connects students with numerous sports professionals. I hope to pursue a similar career as many of these committee members, so I looked forward to having the opportunity to interact with them. Overall, the Master of Sports Law and Business program offers its students a unique opportunity to learn from the industry leaders while providing top-of-the-line networking events.
Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study in your particular field of law?
A: My “aha” moment has been an accumulation of events that have occurred throughout my life. However, there are a few key experiences that stand out to me. As a former women’s gymnastics student-athlete at ASU, I witnessed the leadership, advocacy and impact of strong sports administrators within Sun Devil Athletics. Their consistent action and support throughout my athletic career proved to me how proper governance acts to improve the student-athlete experience. Additionally, as a current graduate assistant to administration at Sun Devil Athletics, I have witnessed these same sports administrators navigate through varying situations and create opportunities for student-athletes and the broader Phoenix community. These leaders have inspired me to pursue a career in sports as I hope to hold a similar leadership role that impacts others.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Law?
A: I was fortunate to have worked with Professor Emeritus Myles V. Lynk on my published article, "The Larry Nassar Nightmare: Athletic Organizational Failures to Address Sexual Assault Allegations and a Call for Corrective Action." Throughout our year-and-a-half process of working together on this project, he taught me how to address my passions and turn them into an article that creates action and accountability. Professor Emeritus Lynk is a brilliant leader as his stature and knowledge inspired me to strive for more in my professional career.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those contemplating ASU Law, and those still in law school?
A: For those contemplating the Master of Sports Law and Business program, I would recommend gaining a better understanding of what drives your passion. For me, my passion shapes my goals in the short and long term, which then requires self-discipline and determination. In times of uncertainty, this ambition helps me take my next steps. Therefore, for anyone questioning their educational path, I would encourage them to stay focused on their passions.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I will be pursuing my JD from ASU Law. I have dreamed of earning my JD at ASU Law, so I am quite excited to be furthering my education at this prestigious university. One day, I hope to represent plaintiffs and work within a major university or athletic organization to help generate positive change.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If I were given $40 million to solve one problem, I would reinvest in collegiate athletics to broaden opportunities for student-athletes as the pandemic has caused numerous teams to be eliminated. As a former ASU gymnast, I understand that gymnastics is typically categorized as a non-revenue-generating sport. Many sports in this category of collegiate athletics have been dropped throughout the past year. I sympathize with these student-athletes as they will not be able to complete their athletic careers.
My experiences as a student-athlete taught me numerous life lessons and shaped my passions for my professional career. Therefore, with $40 million, I would reinvest in universities throughout the nation so these institutions could reinstate their athletic teams that were previously cut. This would allow hundreds, if not thousands, of student-athletes to pursue higher education, compete in their sport at one of the highest levels, and prepare student-athletes with lasting skills.
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