All-American Kathleen O’Connor ’13

Two-time All-American in volleyball

  • Headshot of All-American Kathleen O’Connor ’13B.S.S., studio art, K-12 education certification
  • Master’s degree in art education, Eastern Illinois University
  • Elementary art teacher and high school volleyball coach in Round Lake, Illinois
  • Founded her school’s Village Viking Art Club, began a Legacy Rock Garden, created digital portfolios for student artwork, and was selected to be part of her school’s SILT (School Improvement Leadership Team) 

How did your athletic experience impact your life after Cornell?

The major difference between Cornell athletics and other schools was that it was a family; everyone supported each other and their future endeavors. The Cornell volleyball program was not solely concerned with athletic performance; the main focus was about creating well-rounded global citizens. We did community outreach, volunteer work, and had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua as well as various countries throughout Europe. These experiences have caused me to be involved, travel as much as possible, and try to have as much of a positive impact on people as possible—especially my students and athletes. I want every young individual to understand that they are capable of becoming open-minded citizens who can choose to make a difference in our world. 

What was a significant failure you faced, and how did you overcome it?

All-American Kathleen O’Connor ’13 standing outdoors holding a volleyball, as a Cornell College student-athlete.
All-American Kathleen O’Connor ’13 as a Cornell College student-athlete.

After graduating I followed a dream to play professional volleyball overseas. Unfortunately, I was not selected for a team and I had to move forward from that failure. Since I was already in Europe, I saw it as an opportunity to see more parts of the world and was able to explore many countries and their cultures. When I came back I took a break from volleyball for some time but have since regained my passion and have played in several Adult USA Volleyball Open National Championships as well as other professional tournaments around the country. These experiences have helped me realize that my love for the game was more about the relationships built and the memories made with friends than just the competitive nature. Volleyball will continue to be a part of my self-care and will always hold a special place in my life.