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: Sophie Trachtenberg
Job Title: Presidential Fellow
Organization: Brandeis University
Originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Sophie Trachtenberg ’21 was a four-year member and one-year captain of the women’s basketball team. As a first-year, she helped the team advance to the ECAC Tournament for the first time in half a decade. Over the course of her career, was also named to the UAA All-Academic team three times. She majored in Psychology, with minors in Hispanic Studies and Health: Science, Society, and Policy. As an undergraduate, she was also a research assistant in the Sociology Department and was the Editor of the Sports section at the Brandeis Hoot.
After graduation, Sophie went on to work in higher education administration, serving as Presidential Fellow at Brandeis University. In this role, she is an integral member of a dynamic 5-person team in the Office of the President, providing full support to the President’s daily endeavors and large-scale initiatives. She collaborates with the President and the Chief of Staff on special projects, working with colleagues in offices and departments across the university, including the President’s cabinet and academic leadership.
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?
Being a student-athlete was central to my experience at Brandeis. I have been playing the game of basketball for as long as I can remember, so having the opportunity to play at the collegiate level was something I always dreamed of and worked hard for. At the same time, growing up, I always loved learning and really enjoyed my time in the classroom. When I started thinking about going to college, I wanted to be in an environment where I could do both: prioritize my academics and also compete in my sport at a high level. As a student-athlete at Brandeis, I was able to do just that.
As an undergraduate, being a student-athlete allowed me to feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself. I was intrinsically motivated, always wanting to work on and present the best version of myself in the classroom and on the court. But in being a part of Brandeis Women’s Basketball (BWB) specifically, my personal goals were only amplified, as I was not only showing up for myself, but also for my teammates, coaches, and the program at large. This team-oriented mindset continues to stick with me today, especially as I navigate the workplace as a recent graduate.
How did your time as a student and student-athlete at Brandeis prepare you for your career and life after college?
Every part of being both a student and an athlete at Brandeis prepared me for life after college. Learning to balance practices, lifts, film, games, and travel - along with a full course load and other campus activities - takes practice and patience. You have to be on top of your game in every aspect of your life, for both yourself personally and for your teammates. Exerting so much time and energy does impact your physical and mental capacity, making it incredibly important to also dedicate some of your bandwidth to slowing down intentionally - taking a minute or two to breathe.
Now that I am working in the President’s Office at Brandeis, I undoubtedly rely on these skills every day. My job requires me to examine problems with a detailed and analytical lens, think critically and intently, and make decisions that impact myself, those around me, and the broader campus community. In basketball, teams that win are teams that have a strong shared culture, over-communicate, and are thinking three steps ahead of their opponent. The same goes for our office team in the ways that we approach problems and find working, practical solutions.
Do you have any advice for current or future Brandeis Student-Athletes?
Have fun with it, and don’t take anything for granted. There will rarely be another time in your life where you are surrounded by your best friends, working toward a common goal, and doing something you love. That is really the beauty of being on a collegiate sports team. Embrace and uplift the team camaraderie, lead where and when you are needed, and never become complacent.
Outside of your sport: Get involved. This campus is teeming with opportunities around every corner. Introduce yourself to your professors, ask them questions, and get to know them. Connect with students outside of the athletics community, broaden your circle, and make new friends. Study abroad, do research with faculty, learn a new language, or join a club. Now is the time, and there really is no better place to do it and to be supported in doing so.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your former Brandeis teammates?
If you talk to anyone who played on the women’s basketball team, they will say that BWB is family. I felt this even before arriving on campus as a first-year and continue to feel it today. I grab coffee on campus with teammates who are still students, go out to dinner and see concerts with fellow alums, and attend most of BWB’s home games during the season.
This past year, I was also able to run a marathon relay in Maine with old teammates, travel to New York City to meet up with fellow alums and watch the current team play against NYU, and host some teammates who were back in the Boston area for Homecoming weekend. This family-like atmosphere is unique and hard to recreate elsewhere. Those close-knit ties don’t simply fade after you graduate.
What personal or professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of since you graduated?
As an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with sociology faculty and a team of healthcare professionals on a qualitative research project. We interviewed frontline healthcare providers about their experiences caring for patients in COVID ICUs. In managing this project, I was able to take on a leadership role within an interdisciplinary research team, challenge myself intellectually, and continue to build my writing and data analysis skills.
Since graduation, our team has published two manuscripts in academic journals with these data. A third manuscript is also forthcoming, which I had the privilege to take the lead on. This project allowed me to grow immensely from a professional perspective, immerse myself in meaningful work, and build a support network of mentors and colleagues that I imagine I will keep in touch with long after the third paper is in print. It gives me immense pride to do good work alongside good people.
Interview lightly edited for clarity