Kirsten Tilleman is as much of a force in academia as she is on the court.
The 21-year-old from Bozeman, Montana transferred to UC Santa Barbara with two years of eligibility left to bless the Gauchos with her impressive dedication to the game of basketball. But it's her dedication to the classroom that sets Tilleman apart.
While UCSB is proud to call Kirsten one of its athletes, all Gauchos can also take immense pride in her attention to – and success in – academia.
Kristen's acceptance into the university's nationally renowned Master's program through the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management speaks to her ability to excel in her educational quests as well. The Bren School is known for shaping environmental problem solvers, something Kirsten is correct in placing a high value on in this day and age.
She specializes in conservation planning and water resource management with the basic goal to be able to change the way we use our landscapes by "going out and bringing together a lot of different people needed to inform good decisions about land use," she said. She also especially emphasizes understanding water systems and its uses that are "so important to all the things we do and to life itself."
One can tell how invested and excited Kirsten is about her area of study simply by taking a couple of minutes to talk about what she is currently working on and plans to do.
"I really want to see myself in a position where I can create positive environmental change that you can see on the ground for generations to come," she said.
Her hopes to apply her knowledge in a positive manner through giving back to the community and securing a brighter, healthier environment for future generations reflects a similar hard-working and caring nature that we see on the basketball court. Spoken like a true selfless player, Kirsten spills her philosophy on her game.
"I'm going to do the things that need to get done in order to get the team to win," she said. "If I don't get credit for it, or I do, it doesn't really matter to me as much as what we accomplish as a team."
Standing at only 6'2" and a forward and center, Kirsten averaged 7.5 rebounds a game while playing in the Pac-10 for Oregon State and currently her average of over 8.0 rebounds per game is one of the best marks in the Big West. She continues to consistently expel unending motivation and hard work while representing the blue and yellow. As longtime Santa Barbara News-Press writer Mark Patton put it recently in an article, its Kirsten's "penchant for taking charges, diving for loose balls and setting hard screens that has caught the attention of both coaches and trainers alike" as well as her devotion to detail and exceptional knowledge of the game.
Investing oneself so deeply in both athletics and academics is no easy feat. Kirsten faces a challenge many players wouldn't even consider. Juggling high-intensity basketball that demands 6:00 a.m. practices and ample travel time with such a high level of study requires Kirsten to keep up a steady stream of motivation and master top-notch time management skills.
"I obviously played and went to school when I got my undergraduate degree but with the Master's program I'm dealing with a lot heavier class load and a lot heavier work load as well," she said. "The way I'm dealing with it right now is just really planning ahead ... and being efficient with my time use."
Kirsten assumes the utmost responsibility when approaching her studies, recognizing the extra effort required from her Master's program and somehow finding ways to succeed equally on and off the court.
"The Bren School is a lot about the people and the relationships you build and those networks," she said, "so that's what I'll probably be focusing on in spring quarter and the off season, is building those relationships."
Kirsten gives great gratitude to the university's community and support system as well as its incomparable scenic landscape.
"We have the beaches and the mountains and that's super fun, especially with what I'm studying and just having a cohort of people that want the same things you do and want you to succeed is really valuable and I really enjoy it," she said.
All of these factors, the prestige and knowledge that the Bren School Master's program has to offer, and the history of excellence found in UCSB's basketball program added up to a win-win situation for Kirsten. Her unique passion for her studies and the fruit of their future application can only stand to benefit the rest of the world. Luckily for UCSB, Kirsten feels that she also has more positive basketball to experience and share and is willing to put in the work to simultaneously excel in both.
"I will give all I can when I'm on the basketball court and then when it's time to switch to class mode, its time to switch to class mode!" she said.