Student of the Year: Jaimie Phelan
LSA junior Jaimie Phelan has a lot on her plate: playing an instrumental role on the Women’s Track and Field team while working tirelessly with Athletes Connected and the Depression Center Student Advisory Board as an advocate for ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Yet, she never lets herself get too overwhelmed.
“It definitely feels like a lot, but I also kind of have that mindset that I’m still learning,” she said. “I’m still growing and I’m surrounded by so many amazing people on campus at Michigan and on our amazing team.”
Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Phelan decided to attend Michigan based on the strong psychology program and the success of the track and field team where, she immediately made an impact — scoring at both Big Ten’s and nationals her freshmen year. Despite some setbacks due to injury, Phelan continued to persevere and just recently finished off this past indoor season with an All-American title in the distance medley relay at NCAA Nationals and numerous personal records. However, Phelan quickly emphasized group effort, pointing to her teammates as sources of strength and encouragement over the course of the season.
“It felt awesome to be able to share it with the three other girls on the DMR team right there with us,” she said. “But I think everyone on our team kind of helped us get there.”
She shows this perspective in all aspects of her life, and not just on the track.
“I’m definitely grateful to be a part of organizations that are so much bigger than myself,” Phelan said. “In Women’s Track and Field, we all put on the singlet with the block 'M', and then as soon as you put on that singlet, you’re representing Michigan. Then with the Depression Center’s Student Advisory Board and Athlete’s Connected, it’s trying to help everyone else deal with anything that they’re dealing with, anything that they may be struggling with.”
Phelan got involved with Athlete’s Connected and the Depression Center’s Student Advisory Board during her sophomore year, and credits Will Heininger, Michigan defensive end, and Trish Meyer, Program Director for Outreach and Education, for helping introduce her to the programs and developing her passion for mental health. As she continued to attend more meetings, she felt like she could open up and share her own struggles that she was dealing with, while also becoming more aware of the resources available on campus.
“My freshman year I feel like I didn’t know about the resources that were available for mental health, and I think with how passionate I became for mental health, that’s one of the big things for me,” Phelan said. “I don’t want other people to feel confused. We all want it to be accessible for everyone on campus.”
Phelan describes Athlete’s Connected as an “open space” where student-athletes can come together to discuss anything and everything on their minds — whether it be academic stress or clinical depression.
“It's very similar to an athletic injury, just the same way as if you were injured with anything. Like if we have a hurt ankle, we can go into the training room, get help from our trainers, it’s the same with mental health,” Phelan said. “If you are struggling, or just having a rough day and you need to take a step back, you can either come to Athletes Connected, or there are the resources where you can get help from a professional or anyone else.”
Phelan’s joy for life at the University is absolutely contagious. This campus, she said, had a big impact on her.
“I honestly feel like Michigan is my second home,” she said with a smile spread across her face. “Every time you walk by and see a block 'M', it just makes you smile. I just love it.”
Her summer plans include continuing to advocate for mental health and working as hard as she can for her team, but Phelan has another noteworthy goal — making the Olympic Trials.
“I’m going to try to go to trials, and with Nicole Sifuentes being here, it’s going to be a good experience. I get to go back home, see people and continue training,” she said.
Though she has big goals and high expectations of herself, as both a national-caliber athlete and prominent leader, Phelan stresses the importance of taking life day-by-day and focusing on the little things. Her favorite quote is, “The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.” She aspires to do all of the little things she can for the team, and all of the little things she can for the University of Michigan.
“I think doing the little things goes a long way and can mean a lot to someone,” Phelan said.