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One in a series of stories about student-athletes who have exhibited exceptional educational motivation in their field of study.
By Andrew Crum
Without organization, chaos ensues.
And no one knows organization better than Krista Lopez.
The Oklahoma State senior is pursuing a double major in management and accounting. She is a forward on the soccer team and happens to have a nearly perfect grade-point average.
“I’m very organized,” Lopez said. “I actually use my planner and write down something for every hour of the day, even lunch.”
Lopez started her college career majoring in business management because it appealed to her personality, leadership and organization. She added accounting after taking a class taught by Brooke Beyer.
It was the first accounting class that Lopez had taken, but she was able to quickly comprehend the information because of the way Beyer taught.
“She was the best student in the class,” Beyer said, “With her grasp of the material, I knew she had the potential to do anything she wanted to do.”
Beyer, in fact, was so impressed he sent a recommendation to the head of the accounting department, urging Lopez to consider accounting as a major.
Beyer wasn’t the only professor impressed with Lopez.
Ken Eastman taught Lopez in a management leadership class. An assigned paper, a personal manifesto, caught his attention because of its open and honest approach and comprehensive thoughts.
“Her paper was one of the best I have read in 23 years of teaching,” Eastman said.
The ideas she expressed, her humble attitude and her time-management skills also impressed Eastman.
“I was impressed with her as a student, then I found out she was also an athlete and I was even more impressed,” Eastman said.
Lopez has excelled at balancing school and athletics, being named the 2011 Academic Player of the Year for women's soccer.
Describing her class schedule and time-management challenges, he said, “It’s a Tetris-like problem to solve.”
For all of the organization and time management involving classes and soccer, Lopez has been rewarded. This past fall, she was named an Academic All-American for the second straight year and is the 2011 Academic Player of the Year for soccer.
“After I was selected last year (junior year), I wanted to be selected again,” Lopez said, “It meant so much. It feels amazing that all the hard work has paid off. It’s very satisfying.”
Lopez has the same approach in the classroom as she does on the soccer field, a natural competitive drive. It has at times been more of a hindrance than a help.
Lopez received all A’s except for two B’s in high school and placed high expectations upon herself to exceed that in college. Her GPA was perfect until this fall, when she received her first B. Instead of disappointment, she felt relief.
“I was stressed out with school trying to remain perfect,” Lopez said. Even with soccer, she was trying to score on every shot.
So the B was a blessing. “It actually helped,” she said. “I learned to be a better person and realized I don’t have to be perfect.”
But playing soccer for Oklahoma State almost didn’t happen. Lopez’s parents divorced when she was in elementary school. Her father, with whom she lived, had coached her from the start of youth leagues until the start of high school. Unfortunately, Lopez was tired of soccer.
“I was feeling the pressure and was burned out, so I left in the middle of practice and quit,” Lopez said.
Lopez moved in with her mother and started at a different high school. It took the support of family and friends to convince her to return to the soccer field. When she finally returned, she felt complete again.
Her soccer club coach contacted Colin Carmichael, Oklahoma State’s soccer coach, during her senior year. Carmichael saw her talent and her motivation to play and soon offered her a scholarship.
“Krista hates to lose,” Carmichael said. “She’s a competitive person on the field and in the classroom. She is a very conditioned and skilled player.”
Coming from a family that struggled financially, Lopez knew this was an opportunity to pay for school and help her own future.
Lopez has given herself many options for future success. Both her professors know she will succeed no matter what she chooses.
“She would be a good CPA or could be a CEO one day,” Beyer said.
Lopez plans to pursue an MBA at Oklahoma State this fall.
“I’ve encouraged her several times to pursue a Ph.D.,” Eastman said, “But if she decides to get an MBA or a CPA, either would be good for the job market and business sense.”
Lopez will begin the MBA program at Oklahoma State this fall, with a concentration in accounting to obtain a CPA license. She hopes to become an executive or use her education to start her own event-planning company.
Either way, she wants to make a difference in the world.
Lopez has a dream to start a center (“like a Boys and Girls Club,” she said) for orphans and disadvantaged children. She also plans to go on a mission trip to Uganda to visit and help a local orphanage.
Through it all, Lopez has become a leader both in the classroom and on the field.
In Eastman’s class, she learned the importance of leadership from his mantra.
“Stop managing and lead,” Lopez said.
On the soccer field, Carmichael called upon her to step up during halftime of a poorly played game early on her junior season.
“He challenged me (to score goals), and it motivated me to improve,” Lopez said. “It gave me confidence because my teammates were relying on me, and I was given the chance to succeed.”
Lopez can attribute her success to her organizational skills. At the beginning of each semester, she looks at the syllabus for each class and determines what date homework assignments and exams are due. She plans accordingly around games and practices to make sure nothing is missed.
“She manages time very well,” Carmichael said. “She’s organized and focused. She gets things done; she doesn’t miss time for anything.”
Lopez’s commitment to her education conjoins with organization.
“During the Big 12 tournament, Krista was emailing me her assignments so they were on time,” Beyer said. “She even came to an exam one evening in her practice gear including shin guards. She took the test and returned to practice.”