In August of 2017, Kevin Ozaki will graduate from Chapman University with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. After seeing him struggle in the classroom during his first semester at Occidental not many people would have projected such success for Kevin.
Kevin transferred to Occidental from Orange Coast College, a community college in Costa Mesa, CA in the spring of 2009. Transferring to a new school can be difficult for a student, and doing so in the middle of an academic year only increases the challenge. Trying to adjust to his new school while simultaneously beginning his first grueling collegiate baseball season put a tremendous amount of stress on Kevin. “That was probably the most exhausting part of my first semester. Waking up early every day for classes, going to practice, and then studying all night took a toll on me physically and mentally.”
A gifted student in high school, academic success came naturally to Kevin. “In high school, I spent all my time on baseball and hardly ever studied,” he said, “That had to change at Oxy.” After failing his mid-terms, he decided to take a new approach to academics.
“I had to change the way I studied. I couldn’t just rely on memorizing the material anymore,” he said. Kevin sought out help from the tutors provided by Oxy and met with his professors on a regular basis. But, more than anything he used the competitive nature he built through baseball to motivate himself, “Baseball brought out the best in me academically. The pressure of not having as much time to study compared to non-athletes appealed to the competitive side of me. I was compelled to get more done in a shorter period of time.”
He found ways to create time to fulfill both his athletic and academic responsibilities. “I had to become more efficient with my extra swings outside of team practice. So, I focused more on the quality of the swings versus the quantity.”
The coaching staff was unrelenting in instilling personal responsibility and accountability in their players. There was no excuse to not excel both on the field and academically. “One thing that sticks in my mind is the first time we practiced in the rain. I’m from Los Angeles, and even the mention of rain meant canceling practice,” he said, “Well, at Oxy rain was no excuse to not practice and get better while other teams are resting.” Kevin attributes these exercises in mental toughness to helping him become the best student he could be.
After his initial troubles, Kevin became an exemplary student – graduating Cum Laude with a degree in Bio-Chemistry. He feels that his time at Oxy could not have prepared him any better for graduate school saying, “The Oxy students in my physical therapy program are excelling. Oxy professors challenge their students to think critically and accept ambiguity.” He feels that being forced to consider the gray area by his professors at Occidental put him ahead of students who came from other undergraduate programs.
“Playing baseball was the biggest factor for my success at Oxy and ultimately in physical therapy school and in the clinic. Dealing with pressure and adversity were common on the baseball field, so the stress of grad school is nothing new.”