Indiana Daily Student

Venus Williams enrolled at IU-East, pursuing business degree online

They don’t know why.

Why a former World No. 1 tennis player applied for an online degree-completion program.

Why a designer who launched the largest line ever by a female athlete chose a business program at a university in Richmond, Ind.

Why Venus Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, is now an IU-East Richmond Red Wolf.

But John Oak Dalton, director of communications and marketing at IU-East, said the University is thrilled.

“It was very surprising because you just don’t know the path someone takes to find you,” Dalton said. “It was a big name, and it wasn’t someone that we solicited or tried to find or told some celebrity person to go here to grow our online program. We weren’t really seeking out someone like herself.

“She just found us like anyone else, I’m guessing, by searching and looking through online programs and trying to see what might be a good fit for her. Obviously what we have over a lot of programs is the Indiana University degree, which is obviously a highly respected, top quality degree.”

It started with a sweatshirt. That’s what caught the eye of the American media and many IU students back in the United States. They recognized an IU-East shirt during Williams’ press conference after a match at Wimbledon — and the buzz began.

Dalton said the University couldn’t release the status of their celebrity student at the time, but Williams began her IU classes in the summer. She is part of a program that allows her to complete the final 60 hours of a degree she has already begun online.

She will have two years and one professional tennis schedule to work around.

“We had a lot of concerns about her privacy, but she’s actually the one who has made the overtures,” Dalton said. “She tweeted today ‘Go Red Wolves’ from her official Twitter, which was good because a lot of people thought we were making it up. A lot of people thought we just had someone else named Venus Williams that went to school here.”

It’s something IU freshman tennis player Katie Klyczek only had to be told once to believe.

Maria Sharapova, Jennifer Capriati, Williams — they’re all on Klyczek’s list of favorite tennis players. She grew up watching Williams compete. She watched the young American and her domineering sister change the game of tennis.

“It’s awesome,” Klyczek said. “I grew up wanting to play pro because of her, and now I’m graduating from the same place as her.”

Currently ranked No. 36 in the world, Williams began her Women’s Tennis Association career in the early 1990s. She reached No. 1 in 2002, and although she’s moved around the top 10 in the last four years, she finished the 2010 season with her highest finish in the last eight years with the No. 5 ranking.

Her 2011 season has been more of a downhill slide, with a third-round retirement from the Australian Open due to a hip injury and eight more tournament withdrawals in the last seven months.

But Monday, Williams fired serves clocked as fast as 126 miles per hour during her opening match against Vesna Dolonts of Russia. The American tennis player won the match 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and eight minutes.

So why is the eldest Williams sister — currently ranked No. 2 on the career prize money winners list with $27,860,151 (second only to her little sister, Serena) — pursuing a business degree?

Why is the creator of V Starr Interiors and designer of her own women’s leather collection for Wilson’s Leather excited to be a Red Wolf?

According to her biography on the WTA, Williams “loves studying new subjects” and “after tennis would like to continue her careers in interior design, fashion design and would like to take up choreography and music production.”

But Dalton really doesn’t know why the 6-foot-1-inch, right-handed tennis player from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., chose the University that lies 15 miles from the Ohio border.

He only knows that something appealed to her to make her apply to

“It was kind of a bolt out of the sky,” Dalton said. “She looked like anybody else and looked for a school, but there’s only one IU.”

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