Serving up aces on the court and in the classroom

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By Laura Hettiger

It’s not every day that academic excellence is celebrated in the athletic world. It’s also unusual to hear of a student majoring in both electrical engineering and finance.

That being said, it is hard to come by a student majoring in those two fields, maintains a 3.98 grade point average and is a varsity athlete at the University of Illinois.

All of these accolades describe Momei Qu, the No. 2 singles player on the Fighting Illini women’s tennis team.

“Momei is a great leader on and off the court,” said Michelle Dasso, head coach of the women’s tennis team. “She excels in the classroom and on the tennis court.”

Born in Beijing, China, Qu moved to the United States at the age of nine. Going to Wilson High School in Portland, Ore., Qu found early success in both academics and athletics. Her parents, both avid tennis fans, coached Qu until she came to Illinois in 2004.

Being an only child, Qu depended on her parents to take her to and coach her at private tennis tournaments across the country. Hoping to obtain a tennis scholarship, Qu took her sport to the next level.

“High school tennis didn’t help much,” Qu said. “No college recruits ever go to high school matches. I always played in private tournaments.”

Choosing to double major in electrical engineering and finance was a “no-brainer” for Qu, but is a decision that baffles those who do not know her on a personal level.

“I’ve always been interested in business, but engineering would give me more of a challenge and help me improve my problem-solving skills,” Qu said. “Business is just really exciting. Headline news changes because of business and I know I can make an impact on business deals. My dream job is on Wall Street.”

Having a break from matches last weekend, Qu flew to New York to interview for summer internships, hoping to get one step closer to her final career goal. She is most interested in big companies that are major players in banking and finance.

With all the activities Qu is involved with, she has perfected the art of time management. Before starting a new task or hanging out with friends, she simply asks herself what is the most important thing to get done.

Intending to double major in two very different, demanding fields, Qu got a jump on academics in high school. Qu managed to acquire enough Advanced Placement credit hours in high school so when she came to Illinois, she only had three general education requirements left to fulfill.

While it takes some students anywhere from four to five years to walk across the stage at graduation with one degree, Qu plans to graduate with her two majors in no more than four and a half years.

“The most hours I take in a semester is 14,” Qu said, describing her hectic schedule. “I usually have two hours of (tennis) practice a day and sometimes weights. Then I do about three hours of studying every night. I don’t sleep much, only like five or six hours a night.”

Qu, 20, explained that her crazy sleeping schedule is because she has, “so many thoughts running through my head all the time, I just can’t sleep very long.”

“Momei is very humble,” Dasso said of her talented tennis player. “If you didn’t know her personally, you would never know she plays tennis or has such a high GPA. She treats everyone with respect.”

Although Qu has many possibilities for her professional career, she is not ruling out pursuing professional tennis just yet.

“After graduation, it would be for only a couple of years,” Qu said. “I love tennis, but eventually I want to pursue a job in the professional world instead of being a professional athlete. Not everyone has a chance to play a professional sport, so I would consider it.”

Instead of concentrating on the future, Qu is focusing on the present. That means finishing out the rest of her junior year, landing a summer internship and having a successful tennis season.

“It’s only the beginning of the season,” Qu said. “Anything can happen.”