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This is part of a series highlighting recent ACE participants finding meaningful ways to connect and build on their ACE experience beyond their three-week ACE summer program. After student-athlete participants complete their ACE summer, they are encouraged to think about a specific goal that connects their ACE experience to their life in a meaningful way.  ACE staff support this process through the development of a personal ACE Action Plan and 1-1 coaching, group meetings, and check-ins throughout the year. Learn more about the ACE Plan Process and how ACE student-athletes are supported post-experience.

Taylor Ruck, a senior on the Stanford Women’s Swimming and Diving Team, forged her own path when creating her ACTION plan. What started out as an idea towards leadership on her team evolved into expanding her course work, and academic interests, and pursuing topics directly connected to her ACE in Place Thailand experience.

Ruck explained how after ACE her original idea was to take on a leadership role on the Stanford Women’s Swim and Dive Team as a volunteer organizer. “My strengths are getting people excited about certain events/activities, proposing creative solutions, and connecting others through empathy,” Ruck stated. She felt like this would be a great fit for her to pursue due to her participation in ACE but also because of her love and passion for community service.

“I think getting people excited about serving a greater purpose is a great cause and one I wish to continue in the future,” Ruck explained after describing her initial thoughts with her ACTION plan.

As time went on, Ruck began to understand that she would not be able to enact the plan she had envisioned. Being a student-athlete at Stanford or Duke is no easy task. Ruck shared how throughout the year she battled mental health challenges which inhibited her full ability to commit to her passions like community service. However, Ruck found ways to work around these obstacles.

Seeing that her original plan would not come to fruition, Ruck made a pivot. Instead of taking the approach of becoming the volunteer coordinator on her team, she decided to connect her experience with ACE to her academic and career paths at Stanford by pursuing a Master’s coterminal degree in the field of Earth Systems Science. At Stanford, the coterminal degree program allows students to begin work on a master’s degree while they finish their bachelor’s degree. Earth Systems Science is a degree in the School of Sustainability at Stanford and focuses on understanding, predicting, and responding to human-caused and natural environmental change at local to global scales. She will begin the coterminal degree in Fall 2023.

“Our [ACE in Place Thailand] team worked a little in the world of environmental activism and caused me to reflect on what I have loved doing in the past/what I think would be worthwhile to pursue in the future,” Ruck described. This was the inspiration that encouraged Ruck to explore related academic interests and be able to combine her environmental passion with her degree.

Ruck serves as an example of the power that the ACE experience can have on coursework and future pursuits. She feels fulfilled in the combination of her passions of service and school, while also holding immense gratitude for the impact of the ACE program.

When asked about tips and advice for future ACE participants, Ruck had this to say, which sums up her own ACTION plan perfectly:

“Go in with an open mind and be excited! This is a rare opportunity; should you embrace the adventure, it can change your perspective, elucidate your values, and provide ample footholds for your ambitions to grow.”