Business student and swimmer Emilie Rosa trains for her biggest meet – life.

By Tosha Jupiter

Unmistakably chlorine and adrenaline. That’s what it smells like in here. All of her worries, failures, and daily tasks slip from her mind. She’s not here just to improve her time. She’s here to improve herself and, maybe, to inspire someone else. She bends low and dangles her fingers in the water. It’s about time for a swim.

She started swimming in summer leagues when she was 8. Or 9. She can’t quite remember which year it was, but Emilie Rosa knows she fell in love with the water and that she started swimming competitively for Longmont, Colorado, clubs when she was 13. She didn’t realize how swimming would keep her mind as fit as her body. She didn’t know how the sport she loves would shape the way she interacts with people and the world, and she definitely didn’t expect her passion for swimming to merge lanes with her career path. But sometimes the water is just right.

“I’ve always loved swimming … competing and coaching others,” she says. She depends on others a lot, turning to teammates to keep her motivated. And to make her angry. 

“Before a race, I usually warm up, listen to a few songs, and find a teammate who will get me riled up. I always swim better when I am mad,” she laughs. “I think it’s because in that moment I take it very seriously and then leave it all in the pool. My training has prepared me for that moment and I know it’s just me against the clock.” 

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Just jump in

If you read Rosa’s resume, it’s almost easier to figure out what she’s not involved in at Colorado State University. Because she’s involved in a lot. There’s intramural sports, the College of Business Mentoring Program, and the BizMiss club. Oh, and Spanish Club, RamCatholic, and Spanish tutoring. She’s a senior business student studying human resource management with a second major in Spanish, and she’s so near graduation she can imagine what she’ll look like in her cap and gown. But she remembers when she was a transfer student first discovering CSU, and she remembers why she’s so involved in the campus community.

“You know, it can be scary when you’re new,” she says. “But when I got here, I was determined to be involved with one thing off the bat. It had a chain reaction, and I’ve been able to meet so many people … so many friends. And I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself.”

Rosa’s also CSU’s swim club president. During her tenure, the club went to national competition for the first time in CSU history. She embraces the role because it gives her a different perspective about swimming, but it’s also giving her the chance to learn skills she can apply to her work someday. She has aspirations to lend her talents to the human resources field, and that’s where she’s placed her academic focus. As swim club president, she’s been a part of team decision-making and hiring processes. It’s also given her the chance to be part of a diverse team and to work with many different personalities. More and more, she sees her passions merging.

“When I am not racing, I enjoy watching others compete and succeed,” Rosa says. “To see someone touch the wall and look up at their time in complete disbelief is one of my favorite sights. In that moment, swimmers know that all the effort they put in was worth it.” 

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One word: initiative

In the classroom, it was Chris Henle, an associate professor of management at the College of Business, who got Rosa thinking about a human resources career. Rosa appreciated the way Henle shared personal stories about how human resources jobs can be fulfilling, motivating, and dynamic. Henle inspired Rosa and helped her see that through human resources work it’s possible to help shape workplace cultures and make a real difference in the way teams communicate and function.

Sharing her experiences and on-the-job stories is the way Henle approaches teaching. She served in a variety of professional human resources roles as a job analyst, recruiter, and consultant, so she brings those stories into the classroom.

“I bring in my personal stories to illustrate different points and make them real,” she says. “It helps concepts stick.”

When Henle thinks about Rosa, one word comes to mind first: initiative. She describes Rosa as a hard-working student who always gives her all and seeks out growth opportunities. Henle notes that Rosa sought out and completed a human resources internship and serves as treasurer for CSU’s student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. 

“I think what stands out about Emilie is her desire to keep developing as a person,” Henle says. “I think her motivation rubs off on people.”

Katie Ditter seconds that thought. Ditter is an undergraduate advisor at the College of Business and also serves as the College’s mentoring program advisor. She recruits mentors who are role models through their academic performance and who can relate to first-year students in a variety of social and personal ways. For her final year at the College of Business, Rosa is a formal mentor for Ditter’s program.

“Emilie has touched so many areas of campus and the College of Business – and she maintains her focus as a student with a 3.7 GPA. On top of all that, she has a really positive, open way about her,” Ditter says. “Being a mentor is an important role, and not an easy one. Most mentors balance tough academic schedules with jobs and other activities, along with the responsibility of being accessible and engaged with their mentee. They not only help their mentee connect with people and resources to help them be successful, they put in a lot of time building a trusting relationship that sometimes lasts well beyond their formal mentor year. It is generally harder than mentors anticipate. Emilie’s doing a great job balancing all of this, and making Allysa a priority.”

Nobody understands what Ditter means more than Alyssa. She is Alyssa Mota, a first-year student at the College of Business.

“Emilie is such a good role model and is easy to go to for help. She has been here for me over the course of this semester for almost anything, from finding my classes on the first day of school to helping me make my schedule for next semester,” Mota says. “She motivates me to stay involved on campus and to use my resources. Emilie is so kind and more than willing to do anything with me school related, or not. We have studied together or just hung out and each time she makes sure to stay updated with what is going on in my life and shows she cares. I am so lucky to have her as a mentor and hope our relationship always stays intact.”

In life as in sport, Rosa stands at the side of the pool to cheer on and push the team – and herself. She tries to be there to lend a hand, to extend a strong arm to help a swimmer out of the pool or out of life’s rough waters. Swimming has taught her endurance. It’s taught her dedication. And it’s taught her to appreciate the people in the pool. For her, it comes down to empathy and compassion.

“I reach out first,” she says. “Swimming has taught me how to communicate with all people.”

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