Photo courtesy of Danny Karnik

Sam Pierannunzi, fourth-year BA with a marketing concentration, leads the softball team in runs and stolen bases. The centerfielder from Suwanee was able to find time to study abroad in Spain and pick up a Spanish minor along the way. The Technique was able to sit down with Pierannunzi to discuss how GTAA has helped her succeed.

Technique: You went to Spain over the summer; how was that?

Pierannunzi: It was incredible. It’s hard to explain it to people because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before.

Technique: Why did you decide to go there?

Pierannunzi: It was a really good opportunity for me to branch out and try new things. I loved Spanish all throughout high school. I took AP Spanish and was able to place into the program here and get my Spanish minor, something I was super passionate about. Getting an opportunity that fit perfectly because study abroad is really difficult to do with athletics because I can’t afford to just go away for a semester. Like, I would never be able to do that and play a sport.

Being able to do it in the summer, and it just fell perfectly because it was the second half [summer semester], so if we went into post season, that would run into June, and I couldn’t do a full summer. So perfect opportunity, love Spanish, and I was trying to do something new, build myself a little bit.

Technique: One of the misconceptions people have is that student-athletes are very limited in what they can do because of school, workouts, training, games and all. Do you feel like you’re experiencing what Tech has to offer?

Pierannunzi: Oh yeah, 100 percent. The biggest thing I’ve learned from this place is that if you want something bad enough, then you can do anything that you want. Our coaches are super supportive because at the Athletic Association, our mission statement includes that we’re “student-athletes.” “Student” comes first, and they’re trying to build us to be champions in school, athletics and life.

So the way they frame our work ethic is school comes first always, and then athletics is also a big part of it. We have to work to prioritize our time so that we can be great at both, and our coaches help us with that. Last semester [(Spring 2016)] when we were in season for softball, me and a couple of my teammates who are marketing concentration as well wanted to take this digital marketing class because it’s super interesting, and we thought it’d be really beneficial for our education. But it ended right at the time practice was supposed to start. There’s a certain time we’re kinda supposed to try and fit things in as far as practice times. We went and talked to coach about it, and she’s like, “School comes first. If that’s what you want to do, then sure.” We were able to finagle the schedule so we started practice a little later on those days.

It was really cool because it says to us that Georgia Tech is such a hard place, but they’re supportive in every way they can be. We can be whatever major we want to be. One of our pitchers doesn’t even come to practice on Fridays. She has to schedule around practice. She comes in the morning and works really hard in the morning so she can have this lab that she really wants to take for biology. It’s really cool. Georgia Tech is a special place in that way.

Technique: With all of that said, how do you specifically balance all of it?

Pierannunzi: I had to fall kinda hard to learn that I wasn’t that great at time management, y’know. You have to fail so you can learn. When I came in as a freshman, I didn’t have a good study — I mean, every kid here in high school could go to class, not really work that hard and make great grades. That’s just how we’re wired, although we do have the work ethic. So I didn’t know how to study right, and I didn’t know how to manage my time. But I did know how to work hard, and I was super passionate about what I did.

I struggled, really couldn’t figure it out. Here, we have advisors help us lay things out, like, “What do you have this week? What do you have coming up in the next two, three, four weeks?” so that we’re thinking on a bigger scale. I went to sessions at [Clough]: study smarter not harder, a time management seminar. And I have this planner. I’m not the most organized person, but my planner is my life. It’s how I function. If it’s not in there, I’m not going to remember.

There are all sorts of programs on campus and here [at GTAA]: there’s tutoring on campus; there’s tutoring available here. We have to do study hall depending on who you are — all of our freshmen have to do study hall, some of our sophomores. We had five hours a week of study hall that we had to do here.

It’s little steps that they put in place to make sure, like, “Hey, we understand the transition is hard. It’s a lot, so we’re going to try and help you filter in.” That was a big thing for me. Having the support of my teammates too was a huge thing because they’ve been through it.

Technique: What do you think about the Total Person Program [(TPP)]?

Pierannunzi: So, Homer Rice, [*points to the Homer Rice building, home to TPP*], he’s an incredible, incredible guy. Total Person is basically a living breathing function of our mission statement, if you will. That’s where the mission statement of the Athletic Association came from. Talking about being a champion in all of your aspects.

Tonight, for example, we’re going to see a speaker. His name is Kyle Maynard, and … he climbs mountains and has no arms and legs, and he talks about doing what you want and working hard. There’s everything you could ever need from athlete career fair: resume building, networking tips. They help us make business cards if we want them. They also have classes that freshmen can go to that are financial-aid-based because not a lot of kids know how to do that.

They help you in every way, shape and form. It’s pretty incredible.

Technique: So would you say they’re setting you up for your future?

Pierannunzi: Oh yeah. The resources that we have here are incredible, and I would not survive without them I think. I’m pretty blessed in that way.

Technique: What are your future plans?

Pierannunzi: It’s pretty interesting. I don’t know yet. I want to look into my grad school options; I think that that is the way I want to go. But at the same time, the career fair here and the career fair up at the CRC were all really helpful because I was able to make some connections there. So if that pulls through, push off grad school for a couple years and get some experience. I don’t know. If I can get grad school paid for somehow, I can’t pass that up.