MASON, Ohio -- The Women's Tennis Association (WTA), Women's Tennis Benefits Association (WTBA) and IU East celebrated the graduation of:
• Magda Linette, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, Minor in Sport Marketing and Management, and a Minor in Communication Studies, Poznan, Poland
• Nicole Melichar, Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, Bradenton, Florida
• Shelby Rogers, Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Pompano Beach, Florida
• Retired player Teodora Mircic, Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Minor in Spanish, Bradenton, Florida also earned her degree in 2021.
Linette, Melichar, Mircic and Rogers were four of 17 Women's Tennis Association (WTA) players enrolled during the 2020-2021 academic year at IU East through the agreement. To date a total of 14 players have graduated from IU East, the WTA's educational partner.
Rogers and Melichar received their diplomas during a private celebration on Sunday, August 15, at the Western Southern Open (WSO) tournament at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio. A small number of family and close friends attended the celebration. Linette received her diploma on Monday, August 16, while at the tournament.
Denise Smith, dean of the IU East School of Business and Economics, detailed the academic achievements of the most recent WTA graduates during the program and presented Melichar and Rogers with their diplomas.
"It is very special to have this in-person celebration today, and to have an opportunity to present both of you with your diploma," Smith said. "We thank the WSO for their gracious hospitality and for allowing this memorable occasion, especially during today's environment."
Prior to the celebration, the WTA and IU East attendants for the ceremony followed necessary protocols to ensure the health and safety of the players, WTA staff and their families.
Before the event, every attendant completed an antigen test 90. Other protocols included wearing masks and keeping to the recommended 6-foot distancing. Additionally, prior to Sunday's celebration each individual verified their vaccinations in accordance with WTA guidelines.
"It's so special to have this recognition," Rogers explained. "We're happy to share this moment with some of our family too, especially in these tough COVID times. This is just a great milestone for us, and to accomplish something like this off the court is really special when we're always known for what we do on the court."
"This (degree) is special for me because I chose to forgo the college experience to play on the pro tour, so to be able to accomplish this for myself and for my family, and everyone that I promised when I went pro that I was going to get my education, here is the proof. I was able to do it," Rogers said.
"It's nice to be able to celebrate with other players, and hopefully we can be some encouragement for other athletes to join the program because IU East did a great job being helpful and cooperative with us, so if it's intimidating this is encouragement that it's possible to be done," Rogers said.
Melichar noted that she completed her degree with the support of her family, coach, WTA and IU East.
"I honestly feel I received all the support I needed between IU East and the WTA with signing up for classes or knowing what I needed to take, anytime I needed assistance it was always there for me," Melichar said. "Everyone was super friendly and really helpful so I can only say positive things."
Melichar encourages the WTA players currently working toward their degree to keep with it, even when it gets tough. Having coursework while on tour helps players to take the focus off a bad match or other issues while traveling internationally, she added.
"Any players that are doing it [working on their degree], I think they should stick with it even if they can only do one or two classes at a time. It took me eight years, but I did it," Melichar said. "I think it's just good to learn and to continue the brain to develop so I encourage all players to not only start it but to stick with it."
Said Linette: "This just means so much to me. To play on the professional tour and to complete my degree took a lot of time management and hard work. I am so happy to finish and I am looking forward to a future career after tennis because I was able to do this."
Mircic said: "Not only will my education at IU East help me with my future career plans but it will also help me throughout my personal life. I would love to continue my education sometime in the near future by getting a master's degree as well. I truly enjoyed my studies and once again, I am very thankful to WTA/WTBA and IU East for this amazing opportunity."
Steve Simon, WTA CEO, applauded the athletes for completing a grueling curriculum, demonstrating the strength to manage their schedules and career while completing their degrees.
"Today is a unique celebration to honor our WTA players who have successfully completed their baccalaureate degrees. The fact that we are able to acknowledge the graduates here is very special [during the pandemic]. The program itself is something that we feel very strongly about and we are very appreciative of the partnership. To be able to provide these athletes with the opportunity to gain their education and to prepare themselves for a life after tennis, or even to expand their horizons while playing tennis, is something very special. You have reached another ambitious milestone in your decorated careers."
Lisa Grattan, executive director of the WTBA, congratulated the women on their success. She has said the partnership with IU East has empowered the WTA athletes for life after tennis through education.
"I am proud of our players and of what they accomplish," Grattan said. "Today was the best. It's just a very meaningful day."
Jason Troutwine, vice chancellor for External Affairs, said the event is a celebration of the graduates and their accomplishments, but also the strong partnership with the WTA and WTBA. “The WTA understands fully what it means to Magda, Nicole, Teodora and Shelby to have their diplomas, and to each of the players who are currently working toward this goal."