Throughout their collegiate careers, student athletes are taught to balance academics with athletics in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and get the most out of their college experience. Kyle Decker, a track athlete majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry, has managed to achieve this balance and succeed in both areas.
Decker, a 60-m hurdler indoors and 110- and 400-m hurdler outdoors, will graduate this spring with a 3.99 GPA, and will attend Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine this fall.
“I have had the opportunity to do so much at DePaul,” Decker says. “I’ve researched and presented on supramolecular polymers and substitutes for the extracellular matrix and non-nutritive sweeteners, won Big East indoor and outdoor track championships and traveled to the Dominican Republic with other athletes on a service immersion trip."
Decker seems to have perfected the delicate balance that college athletes strive for in their busy lives.
“I put a large emphasis on the balance between school, sports, friends and self-care, so that I’ve learned to perform everything really efficiently without crashing at the end of the week,” he says. “I’m only at practice for a given amount of time, so I make the most of it. With friends, I block everything out for the weekend.”
By establishing this balance, Decker was able to find time to explore what he wanted to do academically and professionally. Like most college students, he was not sure of his major or career path by the end of his senior year in high school. Although he wasn’t set on medicine, a childhood interest in science brought him to the College of Science and Health.
“I thought that I wanted a PhD in biomaterials or chemistry, but I realized after going through so many labs it just wasn’t for me,” he shares. “I found I instead wanted to be a physician so I can interact more with patients and strive for a leadership role while healing people.”
Decker is familiar both will helping people and being a leader. He has served as the captain of the men’s track and field team in the 2018-19 season, as well as the president of DePaul University’s Captains’ Council. He also is on the board of the Big East Student Athlete Advisory Committee as officer of diversity and inclusion.
In these roles, Decker acts as a voice for college athletes, and works to inspire and encourage social change and service work.
“The Captains’ Council is the liaison between the administration and the athletes," he says. "We also do a lot of service work, like our Diversity and Inclusion social media campaign, an NCAA initiative I headed for DePaul. Right now, the council is working on a public service video for texting and driving, as well as continuing initiatives on healthy relationships, sexual assault and relationship violence."
Decker notes how DePaul’s Vincentian mission helped set his moral compass to do service work. He volunteers every Wednesday in the emergency department of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he is able to give back to the Chicago community while also getting direct exposure to patient-doctor relationships.
Decker also has been a research assistant in the chemistry department since 2016, worked on six invited presentations and publications, and was a research intern at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in the summer of 2017.
It might seem impossible to take on the work and course load that Decker did, along with the various extracurricular services and activities, and still perform as well as he has in all areas. But, by having clear goals, a regimented schedule and a flexible plan, he has demonstrated over the past four years what it means to be an exemplary student athlete. He accomplished great feats in sports and academics alike, and is a proud example of a DePaul University Blue Demon.