Nancy Benda humorously and fittingly describes herself on a Instagram profile as a “sauerkraut enthusiast with a peculiar interest in orangutan zoo escape stories. Occasional tennis player.”

The Hope College senior from Birmingham, Michigan (Seaholm HS) warrants many more colorful and complimentary adjectives because of all of her activities and accomplishments. She has fulfilled her pledge to make the most of her time as a NCAA Division III student-athlete.

Soon, Benda can be called a Hope College graduate in addition to Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion and record-setting tennis player for the Flying Dutch. She is close to completing her double major of communication and psychology.

“It’s evident in my involvement that I like to be busy,” Benda said. “Hope has been an incredible experience for me because of the unique opportunities I’ve been awarded. I've had a chance to work with many student organizations, introducing me to some of my best friends and mentors. The various relationships I have developed have been influential in discerning what I am passionate about, what my strengths are and how to develop those.”

After graduation, Benda plans to move to Washington, D.C., and work for a to-be-determined nonprofit organization with a social justice mission. Eventually, she expects to pursue a PhD studies and become a professor.

Benda said her time at Hope College has well-prepared her for the future.

“I have had different roles on campus that have been really helpful in shaping who I am,” Benda said. “Some of the advisors and mentors have asked challenging questions to help me think about my plans and where i want to go.”

Benda’s career focus came after she came to Hope College with an eye on studying psychology with a pre-health track.

At Hope, Benda quickly found she was not drawn to those psychology sciences. She soon added a second major of communication when she identified she wanted to work with people.

Benda has enjoyed many opportunities to work with people during her four years at Hope.

  • Served on the Student Activities Committee for three years and as the group’s director her senior year.
  • Worked with Orientation, including time last summer with the orientation director where she got to know the Hope campus from a unique perspective.
  • Mentored a group of 15 women for two years as a Nykerk Cup coach. The Nykerk Cup is an annual campus competition between freshman and sophomore women of Hope College in the areas of song, oration, and play/drama.
  • Employee at the Career Development Center on campus.
  • Two-year captain of varsity women’s tennis team. Played No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles for four years and been a part of three MIAA champions and NCAA Division III Tournament qualifiers. Competed in the NCAA Division III National Championship as a doubles team with Carli Capestany as a freshman. Set school record for doubles wins. Among Top 10 players for singles wins.

With a busy academic and social schedule, it would have been understandable if Benda decided to step away from competition. She instead believes participating in athletics helped her thrive.

“I find I do best academically during those rigorous parts of the season,” said Benda, a two-time Intercollegiate Tennis Association national academic honoree and a member of the MIAA Academic Honor Roll as a junior.

“It’s really cool opportunity to have a break from academics when you go to practice or compete. Be sole focused in the moment, but, when that moment is finished, reminding yourself why you’re at school and why you compete for a college, so you can have that full experience of academics and athletics.”