Jess Harlee loves a challenge. That’s why the senior industrial engineering student at West Virginia University chose to be an engineer.

“I just wanted to push myself as hard as I could, and I always pick something that is hard; I don’t go for the easy option,” Harlee said. “I think that’s why I like engineering the most.”

For Harlee, who earned a 4.0 GPA in five of seven total semesters, it wasn’t enough to pick a major that would challenge her intellectually. She coupled that challenge by being a forward on the WVU women’s basketball team, which has been consistently ranked in the top 25 this season. Her hard work in both aspects recently paid off, earning her Academic All-Big 12 First Team honors for the second year in a row.

“It just shows that I really do work hard in the classroom as well as on the floor,” said the Bel Air, Md., native. “I was just happy I did it again and that I’ve kept doing well in school.”

Mike Carey, head coach of WVU’s women’s basketball team, is proud of Harlee but wasn’t surprised she received the honor because of her drive to succeed.

“Any honor she gets is well deserved, and there is no doubt in my mind that she worked hard for this,” he said. “You always know what you’re going to get from Jess, and that’s 110 percent.”

Among the numerous honors she has received, Harlee has been named the Sophomore and Junior Industrial Engineering Student of the Year by the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering in WVU’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. In addition, Harlee earned national attention as the 2013 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar of the Year by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education Magazine.

The most important thing Harlee has learned from being a student-athlete are time management skills. She has learned to apply her hard work and dedication to both parts of her life.

“I feel like basketball is the hardest,” she said. “It’s between both semesters, you miss a lot of class and you’re always traveling. It’s a lot of time management with balancing basketball and school.”

Her dedication to her studies has landed her a job upon graduation this May with Connors Group, LLC, a consulting firm in Pittsburgh, Pa., that specializes in workforce performance and productivity improvement. Harlee met the company in the fall at the Engineering and Computer Science Career Fair.

“I really liked Connors Group. It’s a small group of people and I really thought it was a good fit for me,” Harlee explained. “I did several interviews, and had three job offers but I picked them.”

Her time management skills will come in handy when she begins her job, which will require traveling four days a week and managing several projects at once.

Carey points to Harlee’s drive to win and give her all, calling it “contagious,” adding not only to the younger players but to her peers.

“She’s always going to give her best effort and other players see that and want to give their best effort,” he said.

Harlee’s success on and off the court is a direct product of her work ethic.

“I try to never take off a day, whether it’s on the court or in the classroom,” said Harlee. “My parents never accepted getting B’s; A’s are what you strive for. So I’ve always reached for the sky.”



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.