IU East, WTA recognize four recent graduates during in-person celebration at Western Southern Open

Mason, Ohio – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Women’s Tennis Benefits Association (WTBA) and IU East celebrated the graduation of three current professional players, and one retired player, on Sunday, August 15. All four WTA players graduated in 2021.

The 2021 WTA graduates are:

  • Madga Linette, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, Minor in Sport Marketing and Management, and a Minor in Communication Studies, Poznan, Poland
  • Nicole Melichar, Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, Bradenton, Florida
  • Teodora Mircic, Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Minor in Spanish, Bradenton, Florida
  • Shelby Rogers, Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Pompano Beach, Florida

    Graduates face each other to talk wearing masks and distanced

    WTA professional tennis players Shelby Rogers and Nicole Melichar completed their IU East degree programs in May 2021. IU East and the WTA celebrated their achievements, and that of graduates Madga Linette and Teodora Mircic, during a small event at the Western and Southern Open on August 15.

Linette, Melichar, Mircic and Rogers are four of 17 Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) players enrolled during the 2020-2021 academic year at IU East through the agreement.

Rogers and Melichar received their diplomas during a private celebration on Sunday, August 15, at the Western Southern Open (WSO) tournament at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio. A small number of family and close friends attended the celebration.

Linette received her diploma on Monday, August 16, while at the tournament.

To date a total of 14 players have graduated from IU East, the WTA’s educational partner.

Denise Smith, dean of the IU East School of Business and Economics, detailed the academic achievements of the most recent WTA graduates during the program and presented Melichar and Rogers with their diplomas.

“It is very special to have this in-person celebration today, and to have an opportunity to present both of you with your diploma,” Smith said. “We thank the WSO for their gracious hospitality and for allowing this memorable occasion, especially during today’s environment.”

Prior to the celebration, the WTA and IU East attendants for the ceremony followed necessary protocols to ensure the health and safety of the players, WTA staff and their families.

Before the event, every attendant completed an antigen test 90. Other protocols included wearing masks and keeping to the recommended 6-foot distancing. Additionally, prior to Sunday’s celebration each individual verified their vaccinations in accordance with WTA guidelines.

Two graduates Shelby Rogers and Nicole Melichar walk behind Dean Denise Smith at the WSO

IU East School of Business and Economics Dean Denise Smith leads the graduates, Shelby Rogers and Nicole Melichar, to the celebration event at the Western and Southern Open on August 15.

Steve Simon, WTA CEO, said during the ceremony that he appreciates the opportunity to congratulate the graduates in person.

“Today is a unique celebration to honor our WTA players who have successfully completed their baccalaureate degrees,” Simon said. “We thank the WSO for hosting this event and welcoming the opportunity to celebrate in a safe environment.”

Simon went on to say he appreciated the hard work and dedication of the graduates. He shared his excitement on the results the agreement has brought to date following Sunday’s first graduation celebration held at the WSO.

“The fact that we are able to acknowledge the graduates here is very special (during the pandemic),” Simon said. “The program itself is something that we feel very strongly about and we are very appreciative of the partnership. To be able to provide these athletes with the opportunity to gain their education and to prepare themselves for a life after tennis, or even to expand their horizons while playing tennis, is something very special. Nicole and Shelby, through your drive and dedication you have reached another ambitious milestone in your decorated careers.”

Simon applauded the athletes for completing a grueling curriculum, demonstrating the strength to manage their schedules and career while completing their degrees.

“But it also reflects a great understanding of all of the people – the staff and faculty at IU East and the WTA – that help to support them and do a terrific job of helping them to achieve their goal. This partnership is something that we feel very strongly about ,” he said.

Lisa Grattan, executive director of the WTBA, congratulated the women on their success. She has said the partnership with IU East has empowered the WTA athletes for life after tennis through education.

“I am proud of our players and of what they accomplish,” Grattan said. “Today is the best. It’s just a very meaningful day.”

Shelby Rogers and Nicole Melichar

Shelby Rogers and Nicole Melichar received their degrees during a celebration at the Western Southern Open on Sunday.

Promises kept. Mission accomplished.

Rogers and Melichar took a moment to thank the WTA and WTBA for the opportunity to earn their degree online with IU East under the agreement while continuing to play professionally, and thanked their family, friends and fellow players for their support.

Rogers shared the players were on tour and unable to attend the Commencement Ceremony that was held on IU East’s campus in May. She added she and the players enrolled in online degree completion programs through IU East have worked very hard at time management, juggling their schedules and coursework.

Prior to the ceremony, Rogers and Melichar met outside of the player’s lounge and instantly smiled at each other in cap and gown.

Typical of new graduates in cap and gown, they straightened their tassle and congratulated each other on their accomplishments.

They marched in together with Pomp and Circumstance and applauded each other during the ceremony. Rogers and Melichar often spoke in terms of “we” to include each other, Linette and Mircic.

“It’s so special to have this recognition,” Rogers said. “We’re happy to share this moment with some of our family too, especially in these tough COVID times. This is just a great milestone for us, and to accomplish something like this off the court is really special when we’re always known for what we do on the court.”

Denise Smith is a the podium

Denise Smith leads the program to celebrate graduates Shelby Rogers (left) and Nicole Melichar (right). The graduates were joined by WTA and WTBA leadership, their families and coaches.

Melichar said the degrees were a well-deserved accomplishment.

“Honestly, it feels like mission accomplished,” Melichar said. “My degree was something I wanted to maybe give up on at times because it was very challenging, but this is something that I’ve always wanted to complete and to have.”

Melichar said she completed her degree with the support of her family, coach, WTA and IU East.

“I honestly feel I received all the support I needed between IU East and the WTA with signing up for classes or knowing what I needed to take, anytime I needed assistance it was always there for me,” Melichar said. “Everyone was super friendly and really helpful so I can only say positive things.”

For now, Melichar says her days in academia are likely at an end, but she is leaving the future open to possibility. She added she that she would not mind taking a class or two if a topic interests her, and believes that everyone should continue to learn and to develop.

In the future, Rogers plans to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, specifically in the positive psychology field. She plans to one day be a sports psychologist.

“This (degree) is special for me because I chose to forgo the college experience to play on the pro tour, so to be able to accomplish this for myself and for my family, and everyone that I promised when I went pro that I was going to get my education, here is the proof. I was able to do it,” Rogers said.

Shelby Rogers addresses the small crowd of family members and representatives from the WTA, WTBA and IU East.

Shelby Rogers addresses the small crowd of family members and representatives from the WTA, WTBA and IU East.

While the tennis players are competitive on the court, in the classroom they support each other through their academic studies.

“It’s nice to be able to celebrate with other players, and hopefully we can be some encouragement for other athletes to join the program because IU East did a great job being helpful and cooperative with us, so if it’s intimidating this is encouragement that it’s possible to be done,” Rogers said.

Melichar encourages the WTA players currently working toward their degree to keep with it, even when it gets tough. Having coursework while on tour helps players to take the focus off a bad match or other issues while traveling internationally, she added.

“Any players that are doing it (working on their degree), I think they should stick with it even if they can only do one or two classes at a time. It took me eight years, but I did it,” Melichar said. “I think it’s just good to learn and to continue the brain to develop so I encourage all players to not only start it but to stick with it.”

Jason Troutwine, vice chancellor for External Affairs, said the event is a celebration of the graduates and their accomplishments, but also the strong partnership with the WTA and WTBA.

“We appreciate the WSO’s willingness to allow us to host this special celebration and our continued partnership with the WTA,” Troutwine said. “This is a special moment for these women and their families to celebrate their hard work and dedication to academics, their profession and their future goals. The WTA understands fully what it means to Magda, Nicole, Teodora and Shelby to have their diplomas, and to each of the players who are currently working toward this goal.”

Following a run to semifinals in Montreal, Linette arrived later than planned at the WSO. She met with Vanderpool on Monday to receive her official transcript in her cap and gown.

Nicole Melichar smiles and she speaks from the podium

Nicole Melichar shares her IU East experience and thanks her family, the WTA, and the university for supporting her through her degree program.

“This just means so much to me,” Linette said. “To play on the professional tour and to complete my degree took a lot of time management and hard work. I am so happy to finish and I am looking forward to a future career after tennis because I was able to do this.”

Linette shared some of the challenges players may encounter while completing their degree program. International travel can pose a problem because of the difference in time zones. At times she – and other athletes – have to plan ahead for tournaments that are held in different countries and time zones.

They may also have dual projects through different courses at the same time, and they must work with their advisors to consider the classes they must completed for the degree requirements as they are available and fit into their schedule. Study time can be impacted during tournaments, when players wait for their scheduled match to begin after the prior match ends, due to weather conditions.

However, Linette said overcoming the challenges is worth it to have her degree, along with the two concentrations and one minor added in as well.

“It took me five years to complete my degree but I am really so happy that I did it,” Linette said.

For the future, Linette is planning to take a break from academics but she is planning on one day pursuing her master’s degree.

Before the celebration, Mircic emailed comments on finishing her degree, and shared the dedication it takes to balance life, training and play as a professional athlete.

WTA CEO Steve Simon, Shelby Rogers, Nicole Melichar and Lisa Grattan, executive director of the WTBA.

WTA CEO Steve Simon, Shelby Rogers, Nicole Melichar and Lisa Grattan, executive director of the WTBA.

“Being a professional athlete means constantly being on the road. It means rarely having spare time for anything else except training and competition,” Mircic said. “Even though we, as professional athletes, have years and years of experience and education when it comes to tennis and everything that comes with it, we still wish to educate ourselves in different fields. By traveling around the world and constantly being surrounded by people from different cultures and countries, I realized that human psychology was something that would be extremely interesting for me to learn more about.”

Mircic continued by saying through the agreement between WTA, WTBA and IU East, she had the opportunity to explore the field of psychology through online education.

“Now I can proudly say that I am one of the alumni of IU East. As a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with the highest distinction, I can certainly say that the education I received at IU East has expanded my views and has shown me a way of looking at things from various perspectives,” Mircic said. “Not only will my education at IU East help me with my future career plans but it will also help me throughout my personal life. I would love to continue my education sometime in the near future by getting a master’s degree as well. I truly enjoyed my studies and once again, I am very thankful to WTA/WTBA and IU East for this amazing opportunity.”

The recent graduates are from two of IU East’s six academic schools. Graduates this year received degrees from the School of Business and Economics and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. IU East also offers on campus and online degree completion programs from the School of Education, the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, the School of Natural Science and Mathematics and the School of Social Work.

Smith said Linette was a top student and did well academically as part of the School of Business and Economics.

“Magda is an outstanding student, and we look forward to seeing what she will accomplish in the future,” Smith said. “It’s been mentioned that Magda begins her professional season in Australia and finishes in China, traveling the world once per year. To juggle her studies and her professional career takes dedication and the support of the WTA, and those closest to her.”

Daren Snider, dean of the IU East School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), was unable to attend Sunday’s event but offered his congratulations to the graduates.

“I am continuously impressed with the WTA students and how they handle their busy schedules alongside their studies,” Snider said. “The HSS faculty have shared about each of these students as they have gotten to know them from their classes – as faculty often do with any of their students – and it is truly impressive how these women contribute and managed between life and academia.”

Steve Simon WTA CEO

Steve Simon, WTA CEO, addresses the graduates, Shelby Rogers and Nicole Melichar.

IU East, WTA partnership produces 14 graduates

Sunday’s celebration has another meaning for IU East, the WTA and WTBA.

Now nearing its seventh year, IU East and the WTBA have an agreement that establishes IU East as the primary provider for baccalaureate online degree completion programs for WTA players. Under the agreement, 14 WTA players now have their degrees. And, there are an additional 13 WTA enrolled at IU East.

IU East alumnae also include former World No. 1 Venus Williams, 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, Alla Kudryavtseva, Irina Falconi, Katalin Marosi, Sandra Zaniewska, Ivana Lisjak, Natalia Siedliska, Anastasia Rodionova and Arina Rodionova.

Lisa Grattan, executive director of the WTBA, congratulated the women on their success. She has said the partnership with IU East has empowered the WTA athletes for life after tennis through education.

“I am proud of our players and of what they accomplish,” Grattan said. “Today is the best. It’s just a very meaningful day.”

When IU East and the WTBA first met on a potential agreement, Grattan was uncertain just how many of the professional athletes would participate because of their commitment to practice schedules and international travel.

“Today, to have 14 of our athletes graduate now, it’s just beyond our wildest imagination. I’m just very proud of them,” Grattan said. “The IU East faculty and staff have been amazing to work with. They work with our athletes in a way that is amazingly successful because they get our players, and that is what is so special about this. They really understand our athletes, and we’re really very grateful to them for their understanding, patience and willingness to work with them while they’re traveling around the world. Today was wonderful. It was really special today.”

As part of the classroom, the professional athletes bring a unique perspective and knowledge to the topics and issues being discussed. They join student teams, join discussions and complete assignments and projects just like every other enrolled student at IU East.

The agreement provides the opportunity for players to professionally train and play tennis while completing their bachelor’s degree online. IU East’s online degree completion programs offer the high quality of an Indiana University degree to students throughout Indiana, nationally and internationally. IU East offers 47 options for students to complete their bachelor’s degree or certificate online.

Molly Vanderpool, executive director of Recruitment & Transitions for the Office of Admissions, said the partnership has brought opportunity to the professional athletes to complete their college degree while continuing to follow their passion.

“It’s especially exciting to work with these students from their admission into the university through completing their degrees,” Vanderpool said. “We’re so proud of each of them and our partnership with the WTA.”

IU East has a similar agreement with ATP, the governing body of the men’s professional tennis circuits. Rajeev Ram of Carmel, Indiana, is the first ATP player to graduate from IU East under the agreement. He graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of General Studies degree with a concentration in humanities and social sciences. This year, Ruan Roelofse of Cape Town, South Africa, received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a minor in Entrepreneurship.

Magda Linette receives her diploma from IU East. Photo courtesy of the WTA.

Magda Linette receives her diploma from IU East. Photo courtesy of the WTA.

WTA Graduate Bios
Madga Linette is ranked 44th in singles. She was born in Poznan, Poland, and continues to reside there. Her father was a tennis coach, and she picked up the sport early. She began playing at age 6.

 Madga Linette Photo courtesy of the WTA

Madga Linette
Photo courtesy of the WTA

Linette has won two WTA singles titles including Hua Hin in 2020 and her first in 2019 at the Bronx. In 2020, Linette was the WTA Shot of the Year winner and reached her all-time career ranking at 33rd. She made her first professional appearance in 2007 at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Circuit in Poland.

At IU East this spring, Linette received the Outstanding Student in Marketing award during the Honors Convocation. The award recognizes an individual for outstanding academic achievement in their degree program at IU East.

Linette enrolled in IU East’s online psychology degree program in fall 2016.

Nicole Melichar was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia Republic, but she is a lifelong resident of Florida. Her family moved to the United States in 1989. Melichar had an early start in tennis and has played from a young age. She started homeschooling at age 11 to play more tournaments.

When it was time to decide on attending college, Melichar chose to focus on professional tennis. She first began her professional career on the ITF circuit in 2010, picking up two single titles and one doubles title before qualifying for the WTA in 2012.

Nicole Melichar of the United States before their Indiana University East graduation at the 2021 Western & Southern Open WTA 1000 tennis tournament

Nicole Melichar
Photo courtesy of the WTA

Melichar recently returned from her first Olympic Games in Tokyo, held in summer 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the games in 2020. She was part of the tennis team for the United States, playing doubles with partner Alison Riske-Amritraj.

In 2020, Melichar won 10 doubles titles including the Doha and Charleston this year with partner Demi Schuurs. The duo also won the Strasbourg tournament in 2020, and she won the Adelaide tournament last year with Yifan Xu. During the 2020 season, Melichar finished the season ranked 11th in the WTA for doubles. In 2019, Melichar picked up three doubles titles at Brisbane, San Jose and Zhengzhou. She won her first doubles title in 2017 with Alicia Smith at Nürnberg. In 2018, with her partner Alexander Peya, won the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Title. Also at Wimbledon, Melichar made the finals in doubles the same year.

Melichar enrolled in IU East’s online communication studies degree program in fall 2013.

Teodora Mircic was born in Belgrade, Serbia. Mircic. She retired from professional tennis in 2014 after a 10-year career. As a professional tennis player, Mircic began playing tennis at age 8. She won 33 doubles titles and three singles titles on the ITF circuit. She was ranked in the top five singles in Serbia.

Mircic made her debut with the WTA in 2005 at the Budapest Grand Prix. In 2011, Mircic played in WTA semi-finals at Palermo, Italy, with partner Laura Thorpe. She also made the semi-finals in 2013 at the Bad Gastein, Austria, tournament with her partner Veronika Kapshay. Additionally in 2013, she made the quarterfinal at the Tashkent Open with Kapshay.

Mircic enrolled in IU East’s online psychology degree program in spring 2014.

Teodora Mircic holds up her IU East diploma

Teodora Mircic

Shelby Rogers is ranked at 43 in singles. She was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Rogers has played since age 11. Rogers started playing tennis at an early age, and was competing at a national level by age 11. As a teenager, she was home schooled and postponed going to college so that she could continue playing professional tennis.

This year, Rogers made her third trip to Wimbledon, previously playing the tournament in 2016 and 2017 in singles and doubles. She also played the Australian Open.

At the end of the 2020 season, Rogers earned her best career finish at No. 58. In singles she has reached the finals at the Rio de Janeiro tournament in 2016 and Bad Gastein in 2014. In 2018, Rogers played in two tournaments at the Australian Open and Indian Wells before suffering a knee injury. She returned in 2019 to play Charleston, Roland Garros and Mallorca tournaments and one finals round on the ITF circuit. In 2017, Rogers helped the U.S. to win its first Federal Cup in 17 years by winning doubles in the finals against Belarus with partner Coco Vandeweghe.

She has also played at the U.S. Open. Rogers won her first WTA match in 2013 in Strasbourg. Rogers made her first appearance in professional tennis at age 16 on the ITF circuit, where she won five singles titles and two doubles titles.

Shelby Rogers stands in front of the red IU East backdrop holding her diploma

Shelby Rogers

Rogers started her online degree program in psychology through IU East in summer 2016.

About the WTA
Founded by Billie Jean King in 1973 on the principle of equal opportunity, the WTA is the global leader in women’s professional sports. The WTA is one of the world’s most recognizable and high-profile sports organizations, consisting of more than 1650 players representing approximately 85 nations, all competing to earn WTA rankings points and prestigious tournament titles. The WTA Tour comprises of over 50 events and four Grand Slams, spanning six continents and nearly 30 countries and regions with a global audience of over 700 million. The Tour culminates with the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, honoring the season’s top singles and doubles players based on the final standings of the Porsche Race to Shenzhen leaderboard. Further information on the WTA can be found at wtatennis.com, facebook.com/WTA and twitter.com/WTA.

About the WTBA
The Women’s Tennis Benefits Association (WTBA) is a non-profit organization, established to promote and protect the common interests of all women tennis professionals (the “Members”) and to unite them in a single representative organization. The Organization’s primary activities are to administer and manage the pension plan and other assets owned by or on behalf of the Members; to oversee the Member Health Insurance and Disability; and to offer “Transitions” Educational Programming.

About IU East and IU East Online Programs
Indiana University East has an enrollment of over 3,500 students. IU East is both a traditional campus that excels in innovative learning options and a virtual campus with select online degree completion programs. The university’s customized bachelor’s and master’s programs – a portfolio of over 50 degree program options – anticipate the growing needs of citizens in the region, state and nation.

IU East’s online degree programs offer the high quality of an Indiana University degree to students throughout Indiana, nationally and internationally. IU East offers 47 options for students to complete their bachelor’s degree online in English with an emphasis in Technical and Professional Writing, Mathematics, Natural Science and Mathematics with a Mathematics Concentration, Communication Studies, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Political Science, Psychology, General Studies, and an RN to BSN Mobility Option, and more. IU East also offers a Graduate Certificate in Composition Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Mathematics. For more information, visit iue.edu/online.