Webster's Dictionary defines unflappable as marked by assurance and control.
They could easily add a photo of Manchester University rising senior Mariam Ali as a see here notation.
Moving over 6,000 miles from her home of Cairo, Egypt, to North Manchester, Indiana … picking up a the sport of tennis which is now ingrained in her being while still playing her first athletic love of soccer … taking aim at being a foreign services diplomat. It all comes in stride, along with the typical days of a college student-athlete, for Ali.
The 2017 Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sport-Scholar honoree and 2016 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference first team selection on the tennis court comes by the strong will towards success naturally. Her mom, a former executive with Microsoft, now owns a business-consulting firm, while her dad is in finance and a younger brother, like his sister, is part of the Egyptian professional soccer tapestry.
"The idea of a move to the United States for college wasn't an issue," she said candidly. "Our family has traveled around a lot due to my parents' work … going to Europe and so forth. I had looked at a school in Rhode Island as my top choice but (former academic center staff member) Sandy Bendsen's name came through my email a lot.
"I reconsidered and chose Manchester," she added. "They took me seriously from the beginning, as they continue to now that I'm a student … Even from the distance of living in Cairo, I have never been just an application."
A double major in political science and psychology with designs on the aforementioned career in international diplomacy, Ali has that same feeling when she is in the classroom and on the court.
"I wouldn't have gotten to where I am today without either aspect," she admitted. "(Head women's tennis coach Eric) Christiansen and my teammates welcomed me from the beginning in the spring of 2016 after I decided to step away from soccer. I was looking for something a little different that would balance better with my studies … tennis fit that.
"While I still enjoy soccer and am playing on a professional first league team at home, I like the challenge (tennis presents)," she added. "My teammates and Coach Christiansen have been there at every step (to help me along)."
That constant level of assistance and advice led Ali to seven wins in 12 attempts at number two singles and joining fellow Class of 2018 standout Erin Cordill to form the top doubles' pairing last fall and spring. It is the same story for the Class of 2018 member in her chosen field of study.
"I don't have just one advisor but all of the psychology professors serve that role (for me)," she noted. "I love the way their office space is set up and that they are all so close together … it allows myself and the other psych students so many opportunities to interact with and learn from them in and out of the classroom."
Like finding a favorite spot on the sports team roster with tennis, Mariam also has a professor that has risen to a similar level. Dr. Rusty Coulter-Kern's storytelling ability has her anticipating every class and discussion.
"He's able to transition all of his lectures and one-on-ones with stories about former students and so on," she said. "I really enjoy that aspect of his classes."
Maybe someday, Mariam Ali will be in Dr. Coulter-Kern's story bank, surely with a reference to taking advantage of life's challenges.