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Where are they going? Chelsea McMeans
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
By Mark McGee
Where are they going? Chelsea McMeans

This week instead of a “Where Are They Now” we are going to feature a “Where Are They Going”. With graduation scheduled for May 4, spent some time talking to basketball player Chelsea McMeans about the next chapter in her life.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – “The Lion King” sings about the “Circle of Life”, but Chelsea McMeans is experiencing the “Circle of Education” as she begins a new challenge.

Four years ago she left Texas to come to Nashville to play basketball at Lipscomb University. In the next few weeks she will be going full circle, returning to her home state to attend graduate school at Texas A & M starting in August.

McMeans, a biology major, was one of 10 chosen from an original field of 26 for a full academic package to study for a doctorate in genetics.

“I get my school paid for and I get a stipend on top of it because I will be a teaching assistant in one of the labs,” McMeans said. “It has been a big blessing.”

McMeans compared the process of competing for the scholarship as very similar to what she experienced when being recruited to play NCAA Division I basketball while a high school player in LaVernia.

“They brought us in and paid for our hotel and meals,” McMeans said. “On the last day of the trip we had formal interviews.”

Originally, McMeans planned to attend medical school after graduating from Lipscomb.

But a class, “The Molecular Basis of Human Disease”, dealing with the background of genes that cause diseases, prompted her to look at the PH.D program.

“I realized that maybe medical school wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do,” McMeans said. “I have always been interested in medicine so the field I will be working in is medical genetics. I will be studying the background of diseases.

“Medicine is really evolving right now into something big. Genetics is really on the rise.”

Finding ways to prevent diseases will be the basis of her work.

“I will do genetic screens on people and find out if they have a gene for a certain disease and develop a treatment before they actually get the full-blown elements of the disease,” McMeans said. “That will be really awesome.

“To find out you have a certain prevalence for a certain disease you can figure out what you are going to do for it. We can help people live healthier lives with less stress.”

McMeans has always been interested in medicine and science so the reputation of the science department at Lipscomb was one the major things that attracted her to the school.

“I always took science courses in high school,” McMeans said. “They talked to me about the prestige of the department when I came here on my recruiting visit. They had a 98 percent acceptance rate for graduate school and professional schools. I thought Lipscomb might be the school for me.”

Dr. Beth Conway taught McMeans in both her genetics and Molecular Basis of Human Disease classes. She is happy that McMeans made the decision to attend Lipscomb.

“I have been very impressed with Chelsea’s work ethic and her ability, both to excel academically and athletically,” Conway said. “Chelsea is among the most engaged students in the classroom, is an avid learner, and has a strong curiosity.”

Like all student-athletes McMeans found it a challenge to balance class work with basketball. She credited the teachers and both of her basketball coaches, Frank Bennett and Greg Brown.

Bennett, associate athletic director for internal affairs, stressed that the professors in the science department have always been helpful in working with athletes that may miss labs or class due to travel for games.

“As a coach you have to have some flexibility,” Bennett said. “You may have to adjust your practice times or be willing to have a player miss half of a practice.

“Fortunately, the professors in the sciences have been great to work with. They know they are good students and that they are trying to do a good job so they have been allowed to make up labs and course work. “

McMeans credited prayer and the grace and guidance of God for helping her to deal with one of the tougher majors on campus. She has a 3.85 grade point average. Her minors are chemistry and psychology.

McMeans would like to teach or work in a lab environment after graduation. Conway has no doubts McMeans will make contributions in the field of genetics.

“I think she is particularly suited to excel in graduate school because she thinks like a scientist,” Conway said. “She will ask the difficult questions in class, and seeks to understand everything at a deep level. I am really excited for Chelsea’s future as a geneticist.”

McMeans saw limited playing time under Brown her senior season due to injuries. But he is proud of her success academically and for what it means to the basketball program.

“We tend to forget they are student-athletes, and they do not have to be mutually exclusive of each other,” Brown said. “As we continue to go forward and build we look for those two things. We want to develop the total person and Chelsea is representative of that.

“We tell recruits that if they are a part of our program they will be better spiritually, better academically, better athletically and be better prepared for a career. Those four things go hand-in-hand. We think in order to thrive those four areas have to be lined up. It is impressive what Chelsea has accomplished.”