Saint Joseph's field hockey team ranked ninth in the newest NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll, the highest ranking in program history.
Most college-bound teenagers grapple with decisions about their future — who do I want to be when I grow up? What action do I need to take now to become that person? How am I supposed to have all these answers?
It was never all that complicated for Jordan Olenginski ’21, who came to Saint Joseph’s with a field hockey stick in hand and the full intention of entering medical school upon graduation.
“I guess I was just lucky,” she remarks. “I’ve always known I wanted to practice medicine — both my parents do — and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play field hockey. It’s always fallen into place for me.”
Olenginski recently commenced from Hawk Hill with a 4.0 GPA, having earned the 2021 Class of 1950 Award and four years of NFHCA honors, boasting three A-10 Championship wins and having spent the past two years as captain of the field hockey team. In fact, she scored the game-winning goal of the A-10 Championship in 2019.
As a rising star athlete, Olengisnki had begun the recruiting process in her sophomore year of high school and zeroed in on Saint Joseph’s as she made her way through a long list of college visits.
“I knew I needed sports in my college experience — that competitive aspect, the work of being on a team, all of that drives me,” she explains. “But I also knew I needed the academic resources to go on to become a physician.”
Meeting St. Joe’s Head Field Hockey Coach Lynn Farquhar was all Olenginski needed to solidify her decision to enroll.
“Lynn always put academics first and I wasn’t seeing that at other schools,” remembers Olenginski. “She makes sure to put the people we are before the players we are — meaning that each of us, as individual field hockey players, are worth more than just the talent we bring to the field. She cared more about our personal growth than our performance and that value really resonated with me.”
Lynn makes sure to put the people we are before the players we are — meaning that each of us, as individual field hockey players, are worth more than just the talent we bring to the field.
“Jordan is an exceptional human being,” says Farqhuar. “Sport has been a platform for her to ignite courage, enhance her leadership skills and take care of her own well-being. She is an exceptional role model and constantly on the move, bettering herself while representing Hawk Hill with pride.”
Olenginski’s ability to balance her all-star athletic status with a perfect academic record is something she says comes with the advantage of knowing exactly what she wants to do.
“I was able to establish my priorities early on. Everything I do, I really want to do,” she says. “If you aren’t really passionate about something, it can be hard to have the discipline to get up and do your best with it every day. So identifying those absolutes early on really helped me.”
But Olenginski’s drive goes further than basic discipline. She wants to live a life of purpose, helping others and impacting lives.
“Knowing that your ultimate goal is to make life better for other people takes the edge off the daily grind,” Olenginski insists. “That bigger picture can act as your own personal mission and the only way you’ll achieve your mission is by doing the daily work.”
And one thing Olenginski knows how to do is put her nose to the grindstone. Despite her busy schedule on Hawk Hill, she established and grew an SJU Project Sunshine chapter so she and her peers could visit isolated pediatric patients at a local children’s hospital or send activity kits to pediatric patients across the country.
Visits from members of Project Sunshine typically include fun activities, games and art projects for children who don’t have frequent visits from family or friends. Project Sunshine currently operates programs in five different countries, impacts over 150,000 pediatric patients and their families and provides meaningful community service opportunities to over 18,000 volunteers.
“The pandemic definitely threw us for a loop at Project Sunshine,” she notes. “We had to figure out another way to engage with the kids. It’s so important they know we’re there and we care about them, so we were really determined to find another way.”
Olenginski and her Project Sunshine cohort ended up coordinating Zooms with the children, where they would play fun games, sing songs and do crafts.
As Olenginski looks ahead to Drexel University’s College of Medicine, she has done a lot of this type of reflecting on her time at St. Joe’s and what had the greatest impact on her as she overachieved her way through an undergraduate degree.
“I found incredible mentors in faculty like Mike McCann and Matt Nelson, who were so involved in my growth and understanding of biology,” she says. “But what I was most impressed with was the amazing amount of support I found in the SJU alumni network. They didn’t know me from any other student, but would go out of their way to have coffee with me, talk about the future and give me so much advice. Those relationships I built with alumni were so valuable to me, and still are! So I really want to pass that on as an alum myself.”
“Jordan has fulfilled our ultimate locker room goal: to leave a legacy,” notes Farqhuar. “While she is opening another chapter of her own life in med school, she has left her mark here on campus and I'm certain she will continue to pay it forward.”
According to Olenginski, all the skills she built up on the playing field are what will support her eventual success in medicine.
“Learning resilience and having a healthy response to setbacks are skills I gained playing field hockey,” she recalls. “Those skills really show what you’re made of and how strong you are as a person and I have no doubt they'll lend themselves to my experience as a physician.”
Olenginski is realistic about her chosen profession — she knows she will lose patients, she will make mistakes. But understanding how to handle that pressure is something she feels well acquainted with.
“Knowing how to lead, how to work with a team,” she says, “that’s what will make me a great doctor. That much I’m sure of.”