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Nov. 6, 2014

Sophomore Jeannie Blackwood has been a key element to Virginia’s backline defense for the past two seasons. The systems engineer major sat down with on the first day of the ACC Tournament in Durham to discuss field hockey, the post season as well as how she balances the demands of her major with the demands of her sport.

The team is down at the ACC Tournament and just got done watching the Wake Forest defeat Louisville in the opening game. What were you personally focusing on while you were watching that game?
JB:“I focused on looking at their press, trying to figure out what was open and looking at what they were going to do. I think that each of us looks at their position on the press and on ball-out-of-the-back to see what is working.”

You will be facing Wake Forest in the tournament, a team that you lost to during the regular-season. Are you excited about the opportunity to have another shot at them?
JB: “I think that all of their goals came off short corners the first time we played them. This time, we need to try to protect our feet in the circle and not give anything up.”

You had a great start to the season and hopefully still have a lot of hockey left to play, but what has been your favorite moment of the year so far?
JB: “Jenny [Johnstone] actually told us to visualize this the other day. My favorite moment was in the Princeton game. It was a big game for us and I got a defensive corner deflection out of the air and passed it up ahead as a fast break. It was either Lucy [Hyams] or Tara [Vittese] that went down and scored. This was in the first few minutes of the game and it really gave us the momentum to go on and win that game. And that game was the start of our nine-game win streak.”

Off the field, you are in the engineering school and were actually accepted to Virginia as an engineering student before you were a field hockey recruit, correct?
JB: “Yes, I am a systems engineer major here. The fall of my senior year of high school, I got in touch with Michele Madison. When she went to research me in the system, she saw that I had already been accepted to Virginia. From that point on, it was mutually agreed that I was going to play but that I was also going to be majoring in engineering. I have been able to balance everything so far. I have to take two labs a semester, but I can always schedule those on Monday, which is an off day for the team. It’s hard because I have eight hours of class and lab on Monday, but it makes it so I don’t miss anything else.”

What makes you want to be a systems engineer?
JB: “I am absolutely terrible at writing and spelling, so I wanted to stay far away from that. I am pretty good at math, but more so, I wanted to be in a school path that when I got out, I had a skillset where I knew what I would be doing. A systems engineer works with all components of an operating system to make it all work together in the most efficient way. I personally want to do consulting. I want to work for a company like Deloitte or Accenture that goes in and fixes other people’s problems.”

“I find the classes really interesting. I was telling my teammates on the bus this morning about a discussion we had in my Intro to Systems Engineering class. My instructor, Professor Smith, works for NASA and is one of the most awarded systems engineers in the whole business. He was telling us about how he was sitting around a table with a lot of other NASA engineers at a meeting when that rocket blew up in Virginia last week. They were immediately notified about it and discussing it. There is always between a 60-70 percent chance that a rocket could fail. What we were talking about is that when you do systems analysis, much of it is risk assessment, and so we were discussing about throwing billions of dollars into these launches that have such a high chance of failing. Our professor truly believes it is worth the risk and loves working with things like that where there are such tremendously bad odds, because when you succeed, it makes it so much better than making something with a 90 percent success rate work.”

You have a project in this class where you are supposed to create an app?
JB: “We are in project teams and we have to create an Android app. We each were given our own Android tablet. We have a bunch of software on our computers with which to make the app that we will then download them to the tablet. Our idea is to make a 2D game with a ghost. Our working title is `Ghostbusters’, but we are probably going to change that to avoid copywright issues. In the app, there will be a person who goes through the game with a vacuum, trying to suck up ghosts as they appear.”

You are going to be going on a study abroad trip soon with an engineering twist. Tell us about that.
JB: “I am leaving December 26th to go to Argentina for J-term. I’m going with a systems engineering and com-school group with 30 students (15 engineers and 15 com-school students) where we go for two weeks and do analysis on a local winery in Mendoza, Argentina. And then I am hoping to get accepted to the same program this summer in Lund, Sweden where, instead of working with the winery, we work more on the factory side of analysis. I met with my advisor this fall and he said `At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have computer science minor on your resume. When you say that you went to Argentina and did this, that is going to matter.’ Experience will weigh more than my classes or my GPA with job opportunities in the future, so that really inspired me to want to be part of this.”

What other classes are you taking this semester?
JB: “Physics II, Computer Science II, Differential Equations and Calculus in addition to Systems Engineering.”

How excited are you to get out on the field tomorrow and play in the semifinals?
JB: “We are really excited to get out there. We had a slow ending to our season with a lot of losses here at the end. People have started to look down on us and question whether we deserve to be the number one seed. So I am excited to finally be able to show them that we do deserve it.”

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