Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor
USC athletes are more than just champions on the field, court, diamond, and pool, they're champions in the classroom as well. Each week, we will get to know one of these scholarly Trojans a little better in our student-athlete spotlight.
Name: Zoë Scandalis
Sport: Women's Tennis
Major: Political Economy
Sarah Bergstrom (SB): What made you decide to come to USC?
Zoë Scandalis (ZS): When I was looking for schools, I was looking to find a program with coaches and girls that really fit my personality. I also wanted a school that would really broaden my horizons, give me opportunities to learn, and provided me with connections. Other schools offered some of that, but when I walked on campus here I realized this was the place for me to be.
SB: You're planning on studying a new major at USC, political economy, can you explain what that is and why you're interested in it?
ZS: I've been looking at the classes and the major is mainly focused on getting a better understanding of what's going on in the world. You study world economies, different political situations, the statuses of less developed countries, women's rights, and more. One of my greatest passions for my future is empowering women, I just love that idea. So I think I am attracted to this major just because the topics are so interesting. My hope is that I learn enough to help others in some way. The more I learn about the world, the more I realize how many people are in need. I want to use my platform, whether it's tennis or just getting an education at USC to help people.
SB: Have you done a lot of volunteer work?
ZS: I've done quite a bit of small stuff, with the team or with my family at home. I've also had the privilege to travel a lot and I feel like I've seen a lot of the world. The more that I travel and read, the more I see the opportunities to help internationally. I've definitely helped on a small scale but I still want to do something big. My hope for after graduation is to help on that large scale but I know I need to learn a lot more first.
SB: Do you think part of being a USC athlete and student means you have an expectation to give back?
ZS: Maybe not an expectation, but you have the capability to make a big change. The resources that we have enable us to do anything. The more that people realize everything we have, the more people will want to use it for good.
SB: What is it like to be a USC athlete?
ZS: It's really amazing being an athlete here because I've never been around such great athletes in every sport. I've known these girls for a really long time because we've grown up playing juniors together. But it's been really fun to grow closer to them, to learn the quirkiness and the cool characteristics they have that you don't notice when you're competing at the youth level. Playing together as a team is so much different than all the years you spend focusing on your individual game. This is such a team sport. While you're trying to better yourself, you're also focused on how your team is doing, which is much more meaningful. To play with a school on your back and with a group of girls you want to play for and fight for really means something.
SB: Is it hard to balance tennis and school?
ZS: The most important thing I have to remember is being disciplined and organized. If I have stuff to do I know I have to get it done and I have to learn when to say no. That's not always easy for me. I like to socialize and put off doing homework, but I've learned here to be super focused on what I need to do.
SB: Your dad is a professional triathlete and your mom used to play college rugby, have they taught you a lot about what it takes to be a successful student-athlete?
ZS: They definitely have. The combination of my mom and dad has taught me so much. My mom is this tough, hard-working, strong, independent woman. She is a computer engineer at Hewlett-Packard and she is a tough boss. Even though she has a really sweet personality, when she needs to get things done, it gets done. I've definitely learned my academic mindset from her. My dad has been behind me in tennis for as long as I can remember. He was an Olympic Trials swim coach and has a background in coaching, so he's kind of coached me, organized everything, and had a vision for how he wanted my athleticism to be.
SB: How would you assess this season and what are your goals moving forward?
ZS: We have a great team. A really talented and tough group of girls. We are led by Danielle Lao, our captain, and she is one of the most inspiring players I've ever met. She works so hard every day and I think that's really transferred to the rest of the team. We need to stay healthy and stay focused, taking it one match at a time, but we definitely are aiming for that national championship and we can do it.