Alumni Spotlight: Robin (Zebrowitz) Harpak '04, Women's Swimming and Diving

IMAGES: Robin Zebrowitz Harpak '04 sitting poolside in her suit with a male teammate; and a current head shot.

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: Robin (Zebrowitz) Harpak '04
Job Title: Director of University and Non-Profit Partnerships
Institution: Ideas United

Robin (Zebrowitz) Harpak '04 is a native of Marietta, Georgia, who came to Brandeis as a member of the women's swimming and diving team, specializing in breaststroke and individual medley. She graduated with degrees in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Hebrew and earned her Masters in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University in Israel. 
Since 2009, Harpak has worked in higher education, first as an admissions coordinator at the University of Haifa, then for eight years at Emory University's Laney Graduate School as a fundraiser in their development office. Since May of 2019, she has worked at Ideas United in the Atlanta area, providing content, advice and other strategies as a higher education consultant. She is also involved with several Atlanta-based non-profit organizations, including the Atlanta Rescue Dog Cafe and URJ Henry S. Jacob Camp. 

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

Overall, my experience as a student-athlete was incredibly meaningful and positive. My teammates were my best friends (and still are today!), Coach Zotz, or Coach as we called him, was an incredible mentor, and the structure of being on a team allowed for a healthy balance in all things--healthy lifestyle, balanced social life, and dedicated time for studying. To this day I am proud to say I was a collegiate athlete. Being an athlete at that level taught me dedication, perseverance, commitment, balance, time management, how to be a good team player, and so much more. 

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

Brandeis was the perfect package for me. I remember walking around the school on a tour and the tour guide was waving at everyone, saying hello by name to many of the passers-by. I saw myself in a community where I wasn't just a number but, rather, I'd walk around and see familiar faces and friends. Academically, I knew I wanted to major in NEJS and there isn't a better place for that degree! Then, when I talked to Coach, I knew the team would be perfect. A solid step up from what was my current training regiment, but not so intense that I couldn't keep up. I knew I could be a leader on a team like this, both in and out of the pool. 

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

They say if you want something done, give it to a busy person. I think my time at Brandeis was indicative of this as I balanced practice, two majors, playing in the symphony, volunteering with the Waltham Group, and serving as an RA. Today that sentiment is applied in every aspect of my life. Coach always taught me "you have many options in can be one minute early, two minutes early, three minutes early, etc, but being late is not an option." Today, I know how to make working out and being healthy a priority while balancing a full-time job, parenthood and family life, volunteering on nonprofit boards, social life, and more.

Being a swimmer, at Brandeis specifically, and learning that working hard in the pool and in the classroom meant I could play hard, is something ingrained in me. I know for a fact that my resume was chosen in a stack of resumes because the person interviewing saw that I was a college athlete; to them, that meant that I would be a good employee and teammate, that I would manage my time well, that I would strive to achieve, that I would work hard, and that I can do anything I set my mind to. My time in the pool was some of my greatest memories from Brandeis. And what was the highlight of my time at Brandeis, is also what in many ways shaped me into the person I am today both personally and professionally. 

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

I know it isn't always easy, but trust me, it's worth the effort and the journey. Coming from Georgia where the weather is warmer, waking up for early morning practice and wondering "who decided that swimming should be a winter sport?" while walking to the pool through the snow is a memory I will never forget. What doesn't challenge you, doesn't change you. I *always* felt better after the workout even if getting there and diving into the cold water didn't sound appealing beforehand. That drive, that commitment, and dedication, that ability to push through and overcome, that ability to just get it done. While you are in the water (or on the court or field) perfecting your stroke, working to improve your time, what you are actually learning is so much bigger. The friendships you are making are life-changing. You may not know it today, but you'll reflect and realize how being a student-athlete will impact you for decades to come. Do your best, shake off the bad days, do the thing, and embrace it. 

What do you miss most about your Brandeis experience?

What don't I miss?! Besides being almost 20 years younger and really being able to eat my way through a blondie in Sherman, I miss the community. To date, I still ride Peloton every Sunday with a group of BUSDTers. I enjoyed my classes and learning from some of the greatest scholars in that field. Trips to Harvard Square were some of my favorites. My college roommate is still one of my best friends. And my days on the swim team were hands down some of the greatest. From Camping Trips and swimming at Walden Pond, to Blue and White Meet, Training Trips, Shaving Parties before UAAs, and just the smell of chlorine in the morning. I miss it all and wouldn't change a thing.

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

Professionally I went on to earn a Master's degree and have worked in nonprofits for most of my career including 8+ years as a fundraiser at Emory University. I found that role incredibly fulfilling knowing the funds I raised would impact graduate students and faculty research which would, in turn, impact the next generation of leaders. That job led me to where I am now at Ideas United where we help a variety of universities and nonprofits with their fundraising efforts, branding and marketing, and more. I love what I do and know my background at Brandeis was the foundation of it all. Personally, I have an incredible husband and the most amazing 9-year-old daughter. I serve on the board of URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp and the Atlanta Rescue Dog Cafe. I try to run a half marathon a year and am involved in my community in a variety of ways.