Big Fish

Softball catcher Hannah Shalett ’07 can easily remember her first day at Ithaca College. “You set foot on this campus and you’re part of a family pretty instantly,” she says with that day in mind. As a freshman, Shalett was sitting on her dorm balcony when she was spotted by an older softball team member, who had recognized her from tryouts and invited her to join the team for dinner. For Shalett, then a former high school softball team captain, this made the transition to college that much better.

Four years later, Shalett has risen to her full potential as an athlete, having ended her final season with a bevy of team and personal records. She was named a first-team all-American by the National Fastptich Coaches Association. Hannah owns the team’s fourth-highest single season total with 55 hits, as well as one of the highest career batting averages. She was named Ithaca College’s female senior athlete of the year. On top of all that, she was recently named the 2007 Empire 8 Woman of the Year -- an award given to students who excel in academics, athletics, service, and leadership.

For a modest player like Shalett, the awards and attention have been overwhelming. But with a career-making season under her belt, Shalett has set many Ithaca College records, which include her career totals of 172 hits (fourth), 107 runs (sixth), 102 RBIs (eighth), and a .350 batting average (sixth). At the 2007 Ithaca College annual awards luncheon, she recalls being mortified when her coach went up to give a congratulatory speech. “I didn’t realize the type of year I was having until the awards started rolling in,” she says. “It was mind-boggling.”

Being part of such a tight-knit community is a reward in itself for Shalett. “You get support from so many unlikely places,” she says reflecting on the personal relationships she built with not only her team but also with the entire athletics department. “Throughout Ithaca that was something I felt a lot.”

This concept also applies to Shalett’s academic career. As a sociology major who had been open about her LGBT status from day one at college, she was interested in LGBT issues within the Ithaca community. “I felt like doing something different,” says Shalett.

With this idea in mind, she approached Judith Barker, associate professor of sociology, to craft a tutorial for LGBT activism in town. Shalett and a few other members of the project originally focused on awareness at Ithaca High School and then moved on fundraising for LGBT victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Once her project was complete, she honed in on a more personal issue: LGBT athletes on Ithaca’s campus. Despite Ithaca’s wide reputation as an extremely welcoming place for members of the LGBT community, Shalett found that there was no special support system in the athletics department to address the needs of LGBT athletes. She then set to work with women’s lacrosse coach and LGBT community member Karen Hollands to counsel athletes who were struggling with their own sexuality. “It’s an unbelievable comfort to have that sort of support,” says Shalett.

Ithaca’s athletic program has made a lasting impression on Shalett and has allowed her to make the most of her scholastic experience. This fall she will be attending Smith College’s graduate coaching program, where she will be an assistant coach for the softball team -- putting her well on the way to achieving her dream of becoming the head coach of a Division III team. When asked how she will remember Ithaca College, she replies, “So many places in the world make you feel small, and Ithaca made me feel huge.”





Originally published in Fuse: Big Fish.