Bumping it up a level

Volleyball star Jen Hinze is aiming for the Olympics, and med school

It must be hard to imagine topping your undergraduate experience when you’ve won four national volleyball championships, received top awards in academics and athletics and competed in the World Championships.

But for Jen Hinze, a graduate of the Faculty of Science and a member of the UBC women’s volleyball team, there is still lots to look forward to. Over the next year, she plans to return to Canada’s national volleyball team, write medical school entrance exams, volunteer and travel.  If all goes as planned, Hinze’s busy life will not slow down at all.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and how much I can really handle at once,” says Hinze, who is from Vancouver. “It’s a great feeling of accomplishment.”

Hinze is one of UBC’s top athletes. During her five years at the university, Hinze and her teammates won four Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships, making the T-birds the most decorated team in the league. She’s also won a number of prestigious awards for Canadian student athletes: CIS Tournament All-Star, CIS 1st Team Allstar, Canada West 1st Team Allstar, Thérèse-Quigley Student-Athlete Award, Academic All Canadian and Desjardin Top Eight Academic All-Canadian.

“Being part of the volleyball team has been a really unique and incredible way to experience university,” she says. “It makes you feel like you are part of something bigger.”

But it isn’t the big wins that Hinze will remember from her undergraduate days — it’s her teammates.

“We’re very close and I’ve made some lifelong friends,” says Hinze, who credits her teammates for making her university experience so valuable. “We are a bunch of caring, hardworking girls and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful.”

UBC volleyball might be over for Hinze but she’s not done with the sport. The graduate will spend the summer playing with Team Canada’s volleyball program and in December will compete in the Olympic qualifiers. Making the 2012 Summer Olympics would be a great accomplishment for Canada — only 12 countries make it and Canada’s women’s team is currently ranked 20th.

Hinze is also deciding when to pursue the next part of her education. She wants to be a doctor but first wants to travel and volunteer.  She would like to get involved with the organization Right to Play, which aims to improve the lives of children living in disadvantaged areas through sport and play.

“I’ve had so many good things come out of sports for me, I’d like to do something that promotes children playing and athletics,” she says.

Despite the big part volleyball and sports have played in Hinze’s life, she stresses how important school and her biology major have been too.

“Volleyball has been a big part of my life but academics is a really important part of my life,” says Hinze, who counts the Wesbrook Scholar Award, as one of her proudest accomplishments in the last five years.

On top of going to classes, two hours of daily volleyball practice and gym workouts, Hinze also found time to pursue a research project on how myelin, the material surrounding part of a nerve cell, regenerates after spinal cord injury.

Although sport medicine is something Hinze has considered, she really enjoyed the medical research. Hinze has always had an interest in learning how cells and the body work.

“I never expected my time at UBC to turn out this way — to get to play volleyball on a successful team but also to pursue my interest in the life sciences.”

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