WVU's Dunning a Quick Learner

  • By Katie Kane
  • |
  • May 09, 2011 09:52 AM
  • |
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Most college students take five years to graduate, while some have the ability to do it in four. On May 15, 2011, West Virginia University women’s basketball player Ayana Dunning will have the honor of walking across the graduation ceremony stage after only three years.

“It’s amazing,” Dunning said with a smile. “I didn’t see myself here and when I first got to college I didn’t set off to try to graduate in three years. All my credits were able to transfer, my classes here and summer sessions gave me that opportunity to graduate. Being able to have the time left in my eligibility to get a master’s degree means a lot to me—it’s incredible—and it means a lot to the Dunning family. “

Dunning transferred from Louisiana State University to become part of the Mountaineer family at the start of the 2009-10 season. Listed as a sophomore, athletically, Dunning continued with her course work, yet on the court, was forced to the bench in compliance with NCAA transfer rules. The Columbus, Ohio, native stayed with the books and now enters her senior season, academically, with a degree from the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences in hand.

“I think it was easier for me than most students because I got to sit out my first year. So I was able to kind of get on my feet, academic-wise, and I was able to transition into adding in the traveling and stuff that goes along with basketball,” Dunning explained.

Her hard work and efforts have allowed her to be where she is today, but she admits she didn’t do it alone. She had the help of former educational counselor Ehren Green and current educational counselor Stephanie White, alongside the support of the faculty and staff of West Virginia University.

“Ehren (Green) helped me a lot last year and Stephanie (White) picked up right where she left off,” Dunning said. “All the people in the sports management program have been really helpful to my circumstance with playing basketball and having the time constraints that I do.”

Along with time constraints came time management and the ability to juggle being a part of a nationally-recognized women’s basketball program competing in the BIG EAST Conference. Although, time management is not something that has always come easy for Dunning.

“My mom and dad have been hard on me with my education. They instilled in me that education is important. I feel like I’m the unlikely one to be graduating because growing up my brother was always laying his work out and getting it done and I was such a procrastinator,” Dunning explained. “Once I figured out how to keep myself organized, well, I’ve always been a hard worker, so the organizational part helped me out a lot.”

In addition to the faculty and staff at WVU, Dunning had a support system that played a role in her everyday life and set examples for her, and during the week of commencement, five of those people will also experience graduation honors--her senior teammates.

“Everyone plays a different role. Some are more vocal, like Liz (Repella) and Sarah (Miles), and some just by leadership and the things they do,” Dunning said. “They are people that work hard and they make you want to work hard too. The work ethic that is on the floor translates to the classroom. So working hard with basketball makes me want to work hard and be the best I can in the classroom as well.

“During study hall, my teammates and I are together, but a lot of the times we are not in the same field of study,” Dunning continued. “On Sundays we have group study hall session and a lot of us have the same study hall times or we go up in our free time and try to study. We’ll also clown around when we take a break from it. The study sessions obviously help me out a lot and I’m thankful for them, even if I don’t always want to go.”

As Dunning explained, the teammates find time to let loose, but they also understand the business they need to take care of both on the court and in the classroom. The six graduates in the class of 2011 become the largest graduating class under head coach Mike Carey, also a team that achieved a 3.14 cumulative grade point average.

Two-time academic all-American Liz Repella, who led the team with a 3.94 GPA in exercise physiology, will walk across the stage of the Morgantown Event Center as she graduates from the School of Medicine on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Fellow classmates Korinne Campbell, Sarah Miles, Madina Ali and Vanessa House will each graduate from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences on Sunday at 2 p.m., in a place they have called home and have experienced greatness—the WVU Coliseum.

Something that separates Miles and House from the group of graduates, however, will be the fact that they become the first in each of their families to earn a bachelor’s degree.

After earning a degree from a four-year institution, most students move on to something outside of the classroom, but Dunning has unfinished business at West Virginia University.

“I have two years of eligibility yet, so next year I plan on getting my master’s degree in integrated marketing communications—something I need to get on applying for,” Dunning said. “My ultimate goal is to become a general manager for a professional team. I may eventually go to school for my doctorate—I feel like I need a lot of education to get me where I want to be, especially because that is not a traditional position for a woman, let alone being a minority. I figured I need as much firepower as possible. Education is really important.”

The parents, who instilled the importance of education in Ayana, will be in attendance at the Creative Arts Center on Sunday to support her in her accomplishments. Alongside her mom and dad will be family from all over, both blood-related and the Mountaineer family she remains a part of at WVU.

“My entire family is coming,” Dunning said with a grin from ear to ear. “My mom sent invitations to everyone and they’re excited. I have people coming from all over, even as far as Los Angeles.”


Ayana Dunning, West Virginia University, NCAA women's basketball