Alumni Spotlight: Colleen Donnelly '08, DMD, women's tennis

Colleen Donnelly '08, during her tennis playing days, and today
Colleen Donnelly '08, during her tennis playing days, and today

Alumni Spotlights are Q&A's with former Brandeis student-athletes, across a myriad of disciplines, as they reflect on their Brandeis experience and how it has shaped their lives today. Read more spotlight features here

Name: Colleen Donnelly
Job Title: Dentist
Organization: Coral Dental, Bermuda

Colleen Donnelly '08 was a key member of the women's tennis team in the early 2000s. As a rookie in 2005, she was named All-UAA and selected to the NCAA Division III tournament in doubles.

Donnelly grew up in Connecticut where she attended Choate Rosemary Hall. She graduated Cum Laude from Brandeis with a B.A. in Biology before returning to Connecticut for her dental degree, which she completed at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine.

Following graduation, Donnelly completed a general practice residency at the prestigious Mount Sinai Hospital on the upper east side in New York City where she obtained advanced training in all aspects of general dentistry including esthetics, restorative and implant dentistry, endodontics, and pediatrics. She is a member of many dental organizations including the American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry and American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. She loves to play tennis, cook, travel and explore all the beauty Bermuda has to offer.

Describe your overall experience as a student-athlete. What does it mean to you now, and what did it mean to you while you were an undergraduate?

Overall, being a student-athlete gave me a unique experience over many of my other friends at Brandeis and since college. Looking back, being part of the tennis team was the best memories from my time at Brandeis. My closest friends since graduating are mostly my fellow teammates. Spending so much time together towards a single goal, while having similar experiences going through it, really bonds you together. I am forever grateful for the friendships I have from my time on the tennis team.

How did your time as a student and student-athlete at Brandeis prepare you for your career and life after college? 

Being part of a team teaches you many skills that prepare you for after college as well. Many people only have one primary focus, their studies, and then outside of their classes, they have time to do whatever they choose. Being an athlete, you really need to be able to manage your time between your school and sports responsibilities. Being a Biology major, the courses needed are also very time consuming and challenging. While difficult at the time, I would never have changed my choice to be part of the team. The challenge I worked through really prepared me for the future. I still use those time management and team-building skills to this day.

Do you have any advice for current or future Brandeis Student-Athletes?

Work hard; it is worth it. Although it may seem like a lot to balance at the time between the courses you want to take and the requirements of being a varsity athlete, never again will you have the opportunity do either. It is worth it to spend more Friday nights in the library, or early Saturday morning practices if needed. The extra work required is worth it for the education and experiences you will receive while being a student-athlete at Brandeis. Many people do not get to have the same experiences.

What originally attracted you to Brandeis as a student-athlete?

Since my junior year in high school, I knew I wanted to play tennis in college. I also knew that I wanted to go to a great school and earn an amazing education that would focus on science classes. This narrowed down my search to schools with a strong science education, while having a solid tennis program. I visited a few schools and spent some overnight weekends with different teams. When I stayed at Brandeis, I immediately felt comfortable with everyone from the team. They were all welcoming and showed me around the campus, but what convinced me the most was knowing that these were people I could become great friends with. 

I also chose to be a part of a Div III team over Div 1, because I knew I also wanted to focus on my education and also knew that the courses I wanted to take would be demanding. Being a student-athlete at Brandeis gave me the opportunity to excel at both my chosen sport as well as focus on my education. 

What do you miss most about your Brandeis experience?

I miss the bond I created with my fellow teammates and having the escape from other stressful parts of life; spending a few hours a day sweating it out, laughing, and working hard together. Most of the people from Brandeis that I still keep in touch with were my teammates.

What personal or professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of since you graduated?

Graduating from dental school and moving to a different country (Bermuda).

I attribute both accomplishments to being at Brandeis and part of the tennis team. The time management needed juggling both classes and team commitments made me able to manage my time in graduate school effectively. This, along with the strong education I received at Brandeis, allowed me to excel in dental school. Also, the independence of being away at school, needing to learn those skills on my own, and also having the opportunity to study abroad in Australia while at Brandeis, made me comfortable enough to move to a new country when I completed my training and started practicing dentistry.