Carina Balan hadn’t planned on going to Roosevelt University, but the resurgence of the athletic program changed her plans.
Now, as a member of Roosevelt’s first women’s tennis team, she has been able to continue playing sports and as an actuarial science major, she is able to continue her love for math.
“It was an amazing experience to be a part of something that was just getting started. Our tennis team made history,” she said.
Last season, the team had to endure late-night practices from 9 to midnight a few days a week, and Balan would sometimes have homework to complete when she got home. “That was just part of the challenge; we just had to be patient and keep working to get to where we wanted to be.”
In addition to a rigorous practice schedule, the women’s tennis team frequently travelled long distances to compete. They to Western Illinois University, St. Louis,and even South Carolina for a tournament over spring break. “We would sometimes be gone for a whole weekend, and we had to bring our books with us and our homework.”
Still, the Laker women's tennis team collectively earned Academic Team of the Year honors at Roosevelt, earning the highest cumulative GPA among all Lakers teams during the spring 2011 and fall 2011 term. For her part, Balan managed a perfect 4.0 GPA in the spring 2011 and fall 2011 term, and was named the Female Student-Athlete of the Year.
A graduate of Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois,Balan emigrated from the eastern European country of Moldova when she was in the seventh grade. “It was quite an experience to learn a new language and a new culture, she said Less than eight years later, Balan is a fluent English speaker. She clearly has an ear for language, but her first love is for numbers.
“My mom is a math teacher, and I grew up idolizing her. She was able to explain math to kids in a way that they could understand, and she actually helped me a lot throughout the years to understand math and to love it. I’ve always been good at it, and I always knew I would do something with math.”
Balan took an AP stats course her junior year in high school, and felt she had found her calling. As she began researching related careers, she learned about actuarial science, which uses mathematical models to predict and study risk and variables in the insurance and financial fields. Her studies in the major now include a steady diet of math and probability, statistics, regression, calculus and derivatives.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Balan also finds time to tutor students in math. “I really like when kids come in to get help for math and I can explain it to them in a way that helps. Sometimes they come in really frustrated, but when they finally get it, they’re just the happiest people on earth.”
Balan has also gotten involved in several paid research projects at Roosevelt. In her freshman year, she researched how to incorporate real-life civil engineering concepts into the curriculum of Calculus II courses. “Basically, I was looking for ways to apply the material by using real world situations.” She designed the research project herself, and the project that she designed was used in a Calculus II course last semester. “Mostly I did it for myself and for the school. The financial benefit was just a little bonus.”
Her research project this summer involves looking at baseball statistics, using specific player and team numbers to predict win percentages and other outcomes—the kind of research that baseball teams often pay high premiums for.
When she’s not busy with tennis or her studies, Balan hangs out with her teammates; the team of six girls has grown very close. “We’re pretty much always together, 24-7.” She also loves Chicago Campus, with its many unique offerings. “I love being downtown. Whenever I actually have free time it’s great to get out and explore the city and try something new. It’s always an adventure.”
Balan’s next big challenge is passing the series of tests required for an actuary to begin working in the field. “Hopefully I’ll start passing them soon.” After she does, she sees herself likely pursuing work with an insurance agency.
“Roosevelt is such an opportunity school. “I love meeting new people and being part of the social justice mission, with kids on campus and all over the city. There are so many options and so many ways for students to get involved. If it’s not on campus, then it’s probably somewhere in the city. The city of Chicago is our campus.”
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