Each year, Rutgers produces more than its share of stellar student-athletes. Approaching an approximation of perfection in the classroom and in the heat of competition, however, doesn’t come easily. Maybe it’s because the twin feats, performed with aplomb, mask the hours that students devote to practice and to study while managing the mental, physical, and emotional demands of their schedules. These five women, New Jersey natives who chose Rutgers in order to play for top athletics programs in front of friends and family, epitomized the singular commitment required to excel academically and athletically. Now freshly minted alumnae, each says she is grateful to Rutgers for challenging her, in big ways and small, to be her best.

Adora Moneme (top left) • Soccer • Rutgers University–New Brunswick 

As a first-year student, Moneme SAS’19 was an inaugural member of the Honors College and a midfielder on the team that went to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament, the first of four impressive Scarlet Knights teams. She was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and an inductee of Chi Alpha Sigma, the national college athlete honor society. Moneme attributes her soccer success, in large part, to the insight gleaned from having majored in kinesiology and health and minoring in psychology. Her biggest win? Completing a demanding two-semester course to successfully prepare for the Medical College Admission Test, which positions her to attend medical school.

Jess Hughes (top middle) • Softball • Rutgers University–New Brunswick

Hughes SAS’19, SC&I’19 was a force at the plate, finishing with a career batting average of .351 and ranking 11th in the NCAA among active players in runs scored and 10th in walks. A shortstop who transferred to Rutgers two years ago for the Big Ten competition, she received several academic accolades, including Academic All-Big Ten, while accruing a GPA of 3.5. Hughes, a communication major who minored in digital communication, information, and media, intends  to coach collegiate softball to mentor players and stay in touch with the sport that was her passion at Rutgers.

Nikki Profita (top right) • Field Hockey • Rutgers University–New Brunswick

Profita SAS’19 was the team’s vice-captain and second leading goal scorer as well as a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree. She was also a proud member of the team that qualified for the NCAA tourney for the first time in 32 years. A three-time Academic All-Big Ten, she was an inductee of Chi Alpha Sigma, the national college athlete honor society. A psychology major who minored in education as a social science while making the dean’s list every semester, Profita will pursue a lifelong ambition to teach children after finishing her master’s degree at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

Alexis Jones (bottom right) • Cross Country/Track • Rutgers University–Camden

Jones CCAS’19, winner of several honor roll designations, was most recently Rutgers–Camden’s representative for the New Jersey Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women’s “Woman of the Year” program. After transferring to Rutgers–Camden in 2017, she quickly became the top cross-country runner at the school and team MVP. Jones also competed during the indoor and outdoor track seasons and, thanks to her encouraging teammates and coaches, thrived academically. A childhood studies major and psychology minor, she will attend graduate school at Rutgers–Camden to prepare for a career teaching upper elementary school.

Cassandra Luken (bottom left) • Volleyball • Rutgers University–Newark

Luken SASN’19, the recipient of the 2017 Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, accrued a 3.9 GPA, with a double major in criminal justice and computer science. As a member of a team that had its best record since 2014, she started all 25 matches and led the Scarlet Raiders in points (4.13 per set) and kills (3.54 per set). Luken says the challenges of academics and volleyball gave her the confidence to turn any situation into a best-case scenario. She plans to pursue a career fighting cybercrime, in particular online hacking and child pornography.