Where are they now? Kirsten Heikkinen
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Where are they now? Kirsten Heikkinen

Don’t talk to Kirsten Heikkinen about how busy your schedule is. More than likely hers is busier than yours. Heikkinen, a former member of the Lipscomb women’s soccer team, is working on her doctorate at Vanderbilt University. She also teaches a class as an adjunct professor in Lipscomb’s Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering. And to top it off she is planning to get married in a little more than week. Despite all she has on her plate she spent some time with Lipscombsports.com in an interview in the conference room at the James D. Hughes Center on campus.

What years did you play soccer at Lipscomb? Who were your coaches?

"I played from 2008 to 2012. Jon Ireland was my coach. His brother, Joe, was an assistant."

What prompted you to want to come to Lipscomb to play soccer?

"Two of the girls who played with me at Tullahoma (Tennessee) High School came here to play soccer two years before me - Brandi Besheres and Emily Quandt. I had heard about the soccer program at little but I had not heard very much about Lipscomb.

"I just came to visit. I liked talking to the coach. I liked the campus. I really liked how small it was. I looked at a lot of other places but I wasn't going to be able to play soccer because programs at those schools were too big.

"I really liked the Lipscomb program. I liked the girls. I knew a few of the girls and that made it a little bit easier."

What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?

"Probably all of the trips. I got to know all of the girls, especially the girls in my grade - Meghan McGuire and Danielle Bethke. I got to know them so well. It was so much fun going on trips with them, going to Florida and flying down there with them.

"One of the times we went to Florida we got to stay at a really neat place. It was a big kind of dorm with bunk beds. There was a lady there that cooked for us. There was a pool table and a TV. There were a lot of things to do outside. They hosted a variety of teams. It was a like a resort for athletic teams."

Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?

"The girls on my team - the girls that were ahead of me and the girls that came in with me. Kate Spellman and Lacey Cross were a year ahead of me. Both of them are the sweetest girls. You could tell if somebody didn't feel like they were fitting in on the team or they weren't having a good day they would go and pick them up.

"They really pushed to get to know the players better and that was great for me. Meghan and Danielle were also great. We got close over the four years. Brandi led me into it because she had been there for two years. It was great to have someone from my hometown here to lead me.

"Getting to know Jon Ireland was really great. I really liked Jon as a coach.”

What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?

"I got really involved with Lipscomb engineering missions (LEM) and I am still involved now. It changed my view of missions. I have really enjoyed being a part of it. We have done some really great projects down there (Guatemala).

"Project Ulpan kind of started the engineering missions and it has morphed into the Peugeot Center. We have four mission trips going each year now. The Ulpan Valley is in a mountainous region of Guatemala. We are also taking two trips to Honduras to build a bridge.

"I had just finished my sophomore year when I went on my first mission trip. When you grow up in churches you usually don't hear a lot about engineering missions. Usually you hear more about evangelical or medical mission trips.

"When I got into engineering here at Lipscomb I hadn't really thought about doing missions. Then I heard about these trips. I wanted to try it.

"The little things we do like building water systems change peoples' lives. It is amazing how just getting them clean water can lead them to get a better education and be healthier so they don't miss school. That kind of gets them out of the poverty circle.

"I went on three trips as a student. We also have gone to Guaraxul where we are working with Adicay, another non-profit, in Guatemala with a water project.”

What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?

"Just being at Lipscomb changed my view of how I can impact the world. I know I probably won't change the world, but from the classes I took, the professors I had and the people I met it really showed me what I can do to bring God's kingdom to earth.

"I am constantly thinking how I can serve better, how can I learn more and what can I do next. Keeping myself pointed forward and keeping the people I need around me to support me and remembering the things I have done while I was at Lipscomb have really guided me.

"Lipscomb changed me. It has been for the better. I am happy for it. I feel like I live a much more mission-driven life whereas before I don't think I was living that."

Who was your favorite professor? Why?

"My majors were mechanical engineering and applied math. I was a double major.

"I really enjoyed Kerry Patterson and Fort Gwinn. They really try to reach out to students. I got to know Kerry through the missions program. I have gone on a lot of mission trips with him. It is fun to get to know your professors in a different way.

“Kerry is a really good teacher. I am actually working with him on this fluids course. We are teaching the same course in two different sections. I like the way he formats his class. It is very structured which is something I like and most engineers like. It works very well for me.

"Fort is a really great professor. He can relate things to real life problems he may have had when he was out working.

"He might relate it to a sci-fi thing.  During one of our AutoCAD classes where you create structures on a computer we had the Starship Enterprise that he made wiggle and move around. (AutoCAD is an engineering program).”

Where do you live now?

"I live in Nashville, Tennessee."

Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?

"I am a graduate student working towards my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt. I am also a National Science Foundation Fellow.

"Two years I go I applied for the fellowship. Last year it started in August when I became a fellow.

"It is essentially three years of full funding at Vanderbilt for me to do research. The really great thing about it is the funding becomes directly to me. So if I decide I want to go into a different direction with my research, or if I wanted to leave Vanderbilt or leave my advisor, the money would come with me. It gives the student more responsibility and more availability to do what the student wants. That is why I was really excited to get it.

"When I first started at Vanderbilt I had a teaching assistantship and that is how you get your stipend and your tuition.

"Last semester (spring) I taught a fluids lab here at Lipscomb. It is a junior engineering course. This fall I am teaching fluids which is a class and a junior course as well."

Tell us about your family.

"Next Friday (Oct. 10) I am getting married to Stephen Dodson. He graduated a year ahead of me in mechanical engineering from this department."

My email address is kirsten.heikkinen@lipscomb.edu.