Some students struggle to balance engineering classes alone. Others find distress in taking classes and participating in extra-curriculars. But for Wendy Brown, a fifth-year BMED major and an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader, the work loads of two entirely different activities are manageable both on the field and in the research laboratory.
“Academics and my career goals are important to me, but my personal goals like dancing and cheering are too. I maintain that if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to make it work,” Brown said.
Brown has been dancing for her whole life, becoming more involved when she began high school. During her college years, she was on Gold Rush, Tech’s official athletic dance team, for her first four years, and she became captain her last year on the team.
Brown’s collegiate coach, who is a former cheerleader for both the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Hawks, first introduced her to the idea of cheering for a professional athletic team.
“Before then, I had thought of cheering for the NFL as [a] niche—like something only a select group of special people got to be involved with. Once I saw it as a tangible opportunity, I knew I wanted to do it,” Brown said.
In addition to six hours of weekly practice and workout sessions, Brown is required to be at the Georgia Dome several hours before each game. Before attending any practice, Brown must have her material and routine memorized, which requires even more time.
Along with the athletic side, the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders are required to participate in 20 charity appearances over the course of the season. These appearances have included visiting brain and spinal cord injury patients and teaching cheer camps for the under-privileged children.
As for her time off the field, Brown has been conducting undergraduate research throughout her years at Tech, and Brown’s plans are to receive a Ph.D. in Tissue Engineering and then attend medical school.
“My ultimate goal is to be a reconstructive surgeon and work with the military to develop biological reconstructive and regenerative technologies for use in surgery,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, Brown is finishing her last semester of courses and her undergraduate thesis.
Additionally, Brown will be hosting a segment of the “Science of the NFL” series that is produced by NBC Sports, NBC Learn, NFL and the National Science Foundation. Her segment will focus on Newton’s third law of motion.
In striking a balance, Brown does find some stress, but she thoroughly enjoys her academic and athletic careers.
“As far as school work [goes], I have finished a lot of my degree requirements already, so that helped me not completely overload myself. I have definitely had some very late nights in Whitaker this year, though, between studying for the GRE, doing homework and trying to finish my undergraduate thesis. It’s funny, though, because I almost don’t mind the work load,” Brown said.
Brown notes that she is not the only member of the Falcons cheerleading team with a diverse career path.
“Every Atlanta Falcons cheerleader has a career. It’s actually a requirement to be on the team, and interests vary a lot. We have everything from lawyers, nurses, financial analysts and financial advisors to TV producers, full-time students and moms on the team,” Brown said.
Pursuing two entirely different career paths is feasible to Brown, and she works to dispel the stereotypes associated with cheerleading.
“I definitely think there is no reason you can’t have it all, and I would like to work to discredit stereotypes and discourage the tendency for people to automatically assume that women pursuing things like dancing or cheerleading or modeling aren’t smart,” Brown said.
“My advice to people encountering this type of discrimination is to just stop listening and work toward accomplishing your goals for yourself,” Brown said.