A Gee-Gees women’s basketball graduate has been named the Faculty of Arts valedictorian. Kellie Forand, a four-year guard for the Gee-Gees studying communications will represent her faculty as she performs a speech to the 2017 University of Ottawa graduating class.
Forand hails from Shawinigan, Quebec where she grew up to develop a passion for basketball and academics. Her passion led her to play for the Gee-Gees starting in 2013 where she excelled on the court and in the classroom. In four years, Forand has 65 games played, 1109 minutes, 210 points, and 136 rebounds. During that time, she received the University of Ottawa President’s Award to recognize her commitment to athletics, academics, and community service. She was also a four-time U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian and had the highest GPA (10.0) among uOttawa student-athletes during the 2013-2014 season. Her accolades, however, did not begin in University. “Out of high school I also received the Governor General’s medal and was the female student-athlete who best combined sports and studies in all of Quebec in all sports,” explains Forand.
Being a student-athlete is tough, but Forand attributes much of her academic success to playing basketball. “Being an athlete forces you to have discipline, time management skills and work ethic. Those are all qualities that make you a better student. I know I would not have performed as well in school if I didn’t play basketball in university. Being busy with practices, weight training, video, travelling and games made me more productive as a student.”
She worked just as hard in the classroom as on the court and offered some advice to freshman student-athletes for academic success.
“There are two things you need to figure out to get good grades in University. First, you need to learn how to learn. There are as many ways to learn as there are humans and you just need to figure out what works for you. Once you know what works for you, you’ll feel way more confident going into a test."
"The other thing you need to get good at is understanding expectations. Each professor is different and they each expect different things. Becoming good at decoding professors and anticipating their questions is key to performing well. You’ll be able to focus on the content that matters to them and you’ll also be able to give the answers they are looking for… and bam, A+.”
By practising her own advice, Forand was able to achieve a 9.7 cumulative GPA for her four years of undergraduate study. She shared the recipe to her success.
“I made sure I was always on top of readings and assignments. I always put all the due dates in my agenda and had countless to-do lists. I’m a strong believer that taking notes by hand makes you a better learner, so I always had my notebook every class. Sleep has always been a priority for me as well, so I (almost!) always slept 9.5 hours a night. I’m proud to say I never stayed up all night to study for an exam. You just need to trust the time you’ve put in and if you haven’t… learn from it!”
She was a star on the court and in the classroom, but Kellie Forand also realizes that with such a busy schedule full of practices, games, bus trips, assignments and exams, you must still have balance in your life.
“Balance is very important to perform. Sport gave me the balance to excel in school and vice-versa, but it's also important to have other things going on in your life. Go see your friends, spend time with your family, sleep in, watch some TV. When you're productive most of the time, you can create time to do other things. It's a matter of having the right habits. Performing in school and sport doesn't mean you should be unhappy or sleepless, it's all about balance.”
Looking back on her four years at uOttawa, Forand’s fondest memories involve experiences with her and her team.
“My best moment as a Gee-Gee was in my third year when we made it to Nationals,” she recalls. Though there were many injuries on their roster leading into Nationals, the team didn’t back down. “Despite our small line-up, we fought very hard and gave championship-winning Saskatchewan their toughest game of the tournament. I was very proud to be part of a special team that really came together that year. We went through an incredible journey to make it to St. John for the Final 8 and even if we didn’t get the results we wanted, we had an amazing experience there. That brought me closer to my teammates and made me very proud to be part of the Gee-Gees family.”
Her achievements involved lots of hard work behind the scenes that not many people saw, but that hard work enabled Forand to be an example of the kind of student-athlete that a university sports program tries to nurture. She is very excited to be recognized for her hard work.
“I am very happy and honoured that I have been chosen as the valedictorian for my faculty. This really ends my undergrad on a high note and it feels like a reward for those four years I pushed through. Many people still think it’s impossible to keep your grades high while performing in your sport at university. I want to change that mentality and I’m glad to be an ambassador for that. It is challenging to excel both on the court and in the classroom, but it is doable. I hope my story will convince students to compete in university sport and to motivate student-athletes to excel in academics.”
In addition to being named valedictorian, she will also be receiving the faculty plaque in communications during the convocation. This award is given to the student with the highest standing in the honours bachelor program in the department of communication. Forand will be coming back to the court for a fifth year in Garnet and Grey while pursuing a master’s in communications.