As we continue with our Alumni Spotlight features we stay on the pitch and talk to Dickinson Women's Soccer class of 1992 alumna, and Hall of Famer, Sarah Hepp Burke. Sarah, who now is the Sr. Merchandising Director at Nike, recalls that what made her experience so memorable are the people and just how amazing they are.
Sarah primarily grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania but found her love for soccer when she was really young, living just outside Chicago. "I played on my first team at eight years old and have loved it ever since," Sarah said. However, when she got to Pennsylvania her high school, West Chester East, didn't have soccer but that didn't stop her from pursuing her passion. "I played club and ODP as a youth and made it an absolute goal that soccer was going to be part of my life in college."
When she started looking at colleges, Sarah met then Dickinson Women's Head Coach Al Masland, which led to her falling in love with the school and the rest was history. "My dad actually convinced me to go look at Dickinson and I was dragging my heels at first," Sarah said. "However, once we got there I fell in love with both the campus and the community and had an absolutely wonderful experience."
Sarah flourished during her time in Carlisle and credits a lot of that enjoyment due to her time on the Dickinson women's soccer team. "I think because I didn't have that high school team experience, being a part of a sport or team as part of your academic experience was amazing," Sarah stated. "Because Dickinson was a smaller school you were just connected with students and student support of the team. But it made me feel good and it was part of my identity."
However, soccer wasn't the only activity to occupy Sarah's time. She was a member of a sorority, was part of the student-athletic training program, and of course focused on her academics. There was a balance that Sarah enjoyed and the ability to be involved in so much and meet so many different people added to the experience and balance Division III offered.
Academically, Sarah entered Dickinson with the vision of being a doctor. "Since I was little I had always wanted to be a doctor," Sarah stated. "I did everything I needed to do to make that happen and came in freshman year all gung ho and ready to go." After initially declaring as a chemistry major Sarah had a conversation with her advisor, who told her she didn't necessarily have to major in science to get in to medical school. Taking some Anthropology classes Sarah decided she would major in the subject, which she believed to be a nice outlet and was a different aspect into the humanities.
However, as most students at liberal arts institutions, Sarah did a complete 180 and during her junior year she found a new direction. "I was dying in the lab and would be looking outside the window wishing I could be out there," Sarah said with a laugh. "This was around 1990-91 and Nike as a brand was just taking off and their products were pretty hot at the time. My girlfriends to this day could vouch for me when I said, 'I don't want to go to med school, I want to work for Nike.'" This was the start of a new path and after making sure she had all her classes taken for her major, Sarah was able to take a lot of electives in business and in finance and absolutely loved it and solidified the fact she had taken the right path.
On a side note, during her senior year while she was beginning to put into focus her career plans, her father was offered a job in Portland, Oregon and as Sarah said it was either luck or divine intervention. During her senior year Sarah would fly out to visit and was able to set up interviews and connections with Nike. Upon graduation she moved back home and over the next couple of years worked jobs at local retail stores, learned the brand, learned about the competitors, and in 1994 her dream and plan came to fruition as Sarah began her career at Nike.
Now holding the position of Sr. Merchandising Director, Sarah credits her relentless willingness to chase down her dream to her mentality as a student-athlete. "You have to be willing to do the hard work, pay your dues, and be committed." Sarah said. "I believe you can transfer that mentality to whether you are in a career or just starting a career."
When reflecting back on her time in the Red all these years later, Sarah recalls it was the people that made everything she did here special. "They are amazing people," Sarah stated with an exclamation. "The college is made up of the people that go there. It lends itself to the foundations of the college and what it stands for. These are the people that will help lead change in the future ad it's really exciting to see a focus on that coming out of Dickinson."
Sarah was a highly decorated student-athlete during her time at Dickinson. She was a McAndrews Award winner who earned First-Team All-Middle Atlantic Conference honors her freshman and junior years, snagging the MVP title in the MAC West Division in 1991. She became the program's career leader for goals, was runner-up in career points and was fourth for assists. Today, she currently still ranks third in goals and fourth in points. She also ranks in the top 10 in single season goals, assists and points, and is tied for second for goals in a game and third for points, scoring four times against Goucher College in 1989.
Follow the link below to watch Sarah's exclusive interview.