Between academics, training and competition, collegiate student-athletes must juggle a lot. Mabel Cummins, captain of the Vanderbilt bowling team, added to her multitasking over the past year by also serving as president of the university’s Undergraduate Honor Council.
Cummins said filling both leadership roles required some sacrifice but yielded valuable experience.
“I faced obstacles that required me to be more innovative and strategic in how I operated as a student leader and teammate,” said Cummins, a neuroscience major, who recently concluded her yearlong term as UHC president.
“I had to learn how to fill the gaps in my study time or forgive myself when I couldn’t,” she said. “On the upside, my sphere of influence expanded. I had new venues in which to inspire and motivate peers and new opportunities to build relationships with administrators and faculty.”
Serving as president of the Undergraduate Honor Council is a premier leadership opportunity on campus and one of the most challenging roles a student can take on, said Jeremy Bourgoin, director of Student Accountability. “Where else in the SEC would you see a champion student-athlete who also serves in the student body’s chief academic position, upholding integrity and promoting honor while also excelling in her own academics and in the sport?” he said.
Cummins forged genuine partnerships with Student Accountability staff, faculty members and fellow student leaders.
“Working with Mabel on a daily basis gave her advisers in Student Accountability a front-row seat to her growth and development,” Bourgoin said. “We had the privilege to see a stellar student-athlete, scholar and leader take center stage in one of the campus’s most significant roles.”
“I found that key attributes, such as professionalism, integrity and transparency, were essential regardless of the position, and focusing on inclusion, collaboration, consistency in communication and empowerment resulted in the best end products,” Cummins said. “Also, I acquired new skills while working with all the high-performing individuals, but more valuable was the diversity in culture and background I experienced through interactions with honor council members.”
Leadership and values
Cummins’ passion was evident as she reflected on the values she brought to her UHC role.
“First and foremost, people are our strength,” she said. “Leaders must foster an inclusive environment and understand and integrate different perspectives to achieve the highest good for all concerned.
“Second, passion is contagious,” she added. “If you can find out what is important to the people you serve and align your actions to meet their needs, you will gain their support and trust.”
Teamwork—whether in the bowling lane or on the honor council—is paramount, Cummins said.
“No amount of self-initiative or effort will achieve the greatest outcome—working together with others and striving for shared success,” she said. “It’s the most effective way to exceed expectations for any undertaking.”
Vanderbilt bowling head coach John Williamson called Cummins a “team-first” type of person.
“In our sport, the best bowler on the team is usually the anchor, the person that bowls last when the game might be on the line,” he said. “There is a lot of ego that often is accompanying that role. But last year, when we were searching for our most potent combination, we hit upon the idea of using Mabel in our leadoff spot to get off to a good start in a game.
“She embraced that role and excelled in it, never once complaining about being asked to do something different,” Williamson said. “She is about success and winning. Our program has been at or near the top of the NCAA for nearly 20 years, and she is one of the best we have ever had in nearly every category you could name.”
Student Affairs and Vanderbilt Athletics both laud Cummins’ service to the university.
“Mabel is a bright example of what makes our campus so special,” said G.L. Black, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students. “She has taken on a tremendous amount of responsibility to better not only herself, but also our community. Mabel’s time as UHC president ultimately reflects that athletics, student experience and academic life are all interconnected at Vanderbilt.”