Kaitlin Hawayek has represented the United States, and Penn State World Campus, around the globe, taking classes in her training hub of Montreal and at competitions from Las Vegas to China. Hawayek dreams of returning to China in February to compete in the Beijing Olympics, where she’ll continue to apply lessons from the psychology degree she is pursuing to her ice dancing career.
“The Olympics stands for so much more than just peak performing ability and physical strength,” Hawayek said in an email interview. “To me, it stands as a collective experience for athletes from around the world who have spent hours, days, months, and years devoting themselves to their sport—and, in my case with figure skating, their art as well.”
Hawayek, 25, and her partner Jean-Luc Baker are among the U.S. ice-dancing teams contending for a trip to Beijing. They have competed for nine years, winning U.S. and World Junior championships in 2014, the Four Continents title in 2018, and three consecutive bronze medals (2019-21) at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Hawayek and Baker were first alternates for the 2018 Winter Olympics, an experience that she says “ignited an even greater fire in me to make the dream a reality.”
Concurrently, Hawayek has been enrolled in the World Campus psychology program since 2018. She chose the program because it offered access to classes in biology and neuroscience, allowing her to train and study simultaneously and from anywhere. Hawayek fits her class work into a schedule that includes 3.5 hours daily of on-ice training and another hour of Pilates, strength work, or dance. As a result, she spends her evenings and weekends online.
Hawayek says she’s interested particularly in the relationship between neuroscience and sports performance and how to benefit competitively from those ideas. Beijing could be her next training ground. “I revel in the idea of being able to experience that coming together of humanity, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, gender, and type of sport,” Hawayek says.