How do you turn a high school “D” in English into an “A” in college? If you’re Maia Kuhnen, it’s all part of a long journey.
You see, Kuhnen’s high school “D” was in Trier, Germany, at the start of a story that took her through Kimberley, British Columbia and a couple of changes in plans on the way to becoming one of Clayton State University’s most-accomplished student-athletes… in her professional field of psychology, in not one or two or three, but four sports (that’s right; soccer, cross country and indoor and outdoor track), and in becoming part of the Clayton State experience.
It’s a story that includes academic and athletic honors, being a part of Clayton State’s supportive community in several organizations and committees, and a drive that allowed her to complete an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a year-and-a-half of athletic eligibility still remaining. Indeed, Kuhnen has accomplished so much in her years at Clayton State that it’s hard to know where to begin… the Dean’s List, a standout in two different sports in the same time (soccer and cross country), Academic All-District for cross country and track & field, in addition to numerous academic honors from the Clayton State Athletic Department, five school records in track, graduating with honors in May 2014 and then continuing in the Masters of Psychology program, attending the prestigious Sixth Annual NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis, serving on the campus Tree Committee and as vice president of Psi Chi -- the Psychology Honors Society, a member of the ARC's Millennial Advisory Committee… the list goes on and on.
Perhaps it’s best to let this graduate of Friedrich-Wilhelm Gymnasium High School and Clayton State tell her own story, starting in March 2011, when a big envelope, described by Kuhnen as a letter that has impacted her life tremendously, arrived at the hostel in Kimberley where she was staying for four months during a work-and-travel year in Canada.
“After careful reading, making sure that nobody was trying to fool me, I signed my scholarship offer from Clayton State. It seemed to be so professional and special to receive money for something I have been doing my whole life; being physically active. My original plans were to stay for one year to explore the field of health and fitness management and return to Germany to either finish my studies or specialize in something different.”
However, Clayton State, its people and its programs, have a way of changing plans. And that’s what happened.
“Here I am, four years later and still a current student and alumni of Clayton State. My freshman year, I was a regular student with 15 hours per semester because I had no clue how this American institution `University’ worked. Safe to say, it is quite different compared to the German system, where university is separated from any other leisure activities.”
Nonetheless, to the ultimate gratitude of many in the Clayton State Psychology and Athletic Departments, Kuhnen persevered, as will any good runner who’s in for the long haul.
“My sophomore year, I changed my major to psychology and started to be more and more involved within athletics as a four sport athlete, but also in the Student Activities Center as a challenge course facilitator and volunteer student outdoor and adventure trip leader. I found interest in developing my skills as a fitness instructor and added more certifications to my already existing German track and field coaching license.”
While injuries at that time slowed down her progress in her four sports, they didn’t affect her academic pursuits, and going into what was her junior year athletically, she decided to graduate early, in just two more semesters.
“Despite running hundreds of miles over the summer and an overload of classes, my junior fall semester was a success in athletics and academics. I made the Dean’s List yet again and earned All-Peach Belt Conference Academic honors in cross-country and soccer. I supported the Laker community to my best abilities as a member of the cross country, soccer and track and field teams, served as a vice president of Psi Chi and as the student body representative on the Tree Committee, and I ran times I had not dreamed of since I was 17.”
After getting her undergraduate degree in May 2014, Kuhnen originally planned at to apply to other universities for pursuing her masters. But, once again, Clayton State had a way of changing her plans.
“The uniqueness of Clayton State made me reconsider my decision to conquer new frontiers. I like to be personal with my surroundings and so does Clayton State. The small-sized campus enabled opportunities for me. Finishing my first year of graduate school, I can look back and feel accomplished in conquering new frontiers at my old frontiers.”
“Everywhere I go at Clayton State, the faculty and staff is eager to be helpful in many ways and supports my ideas and me,” she says. That support also includes an internship in the P.A.C.E. program. “P.A.C.E. is a great way to bring community engagement into the classroom and show the other aspects of volunteering.”
“Who would have thought that my ability to only run straight, as my high school physical education teacher stated as being my only positive strength, would let me reach such wonderful challenges I undergo every day.”
Note to that physical education teacher in Trier. It’s safe to say Maia Kuhnen is all about positive strengths. And, yes, in addition to being able to read Latin and Ancient Greek, she did get an “A” in English at Clayton State.