Convocation Profile: A chat with Emily Cliff

Finishing 7th at the Canada West Championship in Shot Put, and 8th in Weight Throw in 2020, no one questions Emily Cliff’s athletic ability and strength. But where the Pandas’ Track and Field student-athlete really shines is in her ability to lead both in athletics and in the classroom, and through her willingness to help out teammates and classmates alike whenever she has a chance. As Emily gets set to graduate on June 12th, she reflects on her time as a Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation student-athlete and all she’s achieved in her five-years at the University of Alberta.   

What brought you to the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation (KSR) at the University of Alberta

Throughout my entire life I had always been physically active. I really enjoyed playing sports, working out, and being healthy. KSR--specifically the Bachelor in Kinesiology program--seemed like the perfect fit for me. In high school, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do for a career, but I did know that I wanted to go to university to get a higher education. I think the combination of loving sports, having many positive role models in relation to physical activity--coaches, personal trainers, gym teachers, etc--and being in a multitude of sport-related clinics for injuries throughout my life guided me towards this faculty and degree program.

Tell us about your journey as a student-athlete. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome these challenges?

I absolutely loved my five-year journey as a student-athlete. It was such a rewarding process and I couldn't have imagined my university experience any other way. I met so many great people during my five years on the Track and Field team--some of whom I believe will be my life-long friends. I think the toughest thing for me in regards to being a student-athlete was learning to prioritize certain tasks over others. Being a varsity athlete is like a part-time job. We have three to four hours of practice each day, five days a week. Because so much of my time was split between school, practice, weights, and homework, I didn't have a lot of extra time to do "fun" things like watching Netflix or partying with friends. 

I believe I overcame this challenge of learning to prioritize by creating a weekly schedule in which I could see exactly how my week would play out. This gave me a sense of ease because I was able to see what needed to be complete by when. As I got older (and more mature) I also learned how to de-stress better. I learned how to listen to my body and take time for myself if I could sense myself getting too stressed or flustered. 

Your classmates have said that on top of your ability to balance school work and your track obligations seamlessly, you are also very kind, giving and willing to help your classmates. What motivates you to give back to your friends and classmates when your own workload is very heavy?

For as long as I can remember, I have always gotten joy out of helping others. I love to see my friends and people that I know succeed, learn new things, and be happy. I love helping others because so many people have helped me throughout my life. Being kind and helping people out when they are struggling is just a way that I can try to give back to those who have helped me in the past. 

Congratulations on being presented with the Golden Bears and Pandas’ President’s Trophy this year for your exceptional contributions to the team as an outstanding athlete, leader and role model! What did it mean to you to win this award?

Being awarded the President's Trophy was such an amazing feeling. It was so meaningful to know that people have recognized the leadership and role model qualities in me. When I first found out that I was awarded the President's Trophy, I was immediately flooded with emotions that I still can't fully explain. It made me think about how grateful I was for my coaches and teammates who made my varsity experience so wonderful.

If times get tough in the future, I will think back to this award and think about what it stands for. I believe it will help push me to be an even better role model and leader in the future.

Where did you do your practicum and what did your role entail?

I did my practicum at KidSport Alberta, which is a non-profit organization that raises money to help pay for sport registration fees for kids who aren't able to afford them. My role was that of Sport Marketing Assistant. Over the course of my practicum, I got to do a multitude of tasks including creating and implementing the KidSport Alberta Blog, social media content creation, volunteer coordination, grant writing, and I even got to plan KidSport Alberta's annual Chapter Resource Conference in Jasper.

This practicum was such an amazing experience in so many ways. Not only did I get to work for an organization with a great cause, but I also got to work with many fantastic and inspiring people. The practicum experience was definitely a highlight of my university career.

As you get ready to convocate, what career plans do you have for the future?

As of right now, I am still not 100% sure what I want to do. I think for the time being, I want to try as many different career options as possible so that I can see what I truly like. Once I've had my fair share of different jobs to see what I like and don't like, I'll be able to answer that question better. Long-term, I think it would be fantastic if I could own a business that is geared towards older adults with dementia and physical activity. 

It is definitely an interesting time to be convocating during a global pandemic. Although it is sad to think that I won't physically be able to walk across the stage, my degree and university experience is so much more than that, and I have memories that will last a lifetime--pandemic or not. 

When it comes to the future (and the idea of getting a career in my field), it can also be scary to think about in regards to the pandemic. But, I think that I have to remember that university prepared me for so much. I just need to take what I learned, be creative, and trust the process. I am really optimistic to see what the future holds.

What are you most proud of in your journey as a KSR student-athlete?

What I am most proud of in my journey as a University of Alberta and KSR student-athlete isn't a trophy, or an A+ paper, or a good grade on a final exam. What I am most proud of is the person I have become in my journey as a student-athlete. Throughout these last five-years, I have learned so much about myself and I think I have become a better person as a result. 

Thank you so much to all of the professors, U of A staff, coaches, teammates, and the friends that I have made for making my University of Alberta experience so enjoyable. I am so grateful for all of you!