Beyond Sports: IWU Alumni Ellen Gilbert Contends for Top Sorority Athlete Honor

Ellen Gilbert doesn’t wait too long. A recent Illinois her Wesleyan University swimmer dives almost immediately.

The spring graduate was a nominee for the NCAA’s Female Student-Athlete of the Year after she was named the first 2021-22 Division III Commissioner Association’s Region VIII Women’s Sport Student-Athlete of the Year. , based on athletic excellence, service and leadership.

The Illinois and Wisconsin college conferences also chose Gilbert as their woman of the year.

Gilbert was an IWU Distinguished Swimmer and Academic All-American.

Gilbert has also offered two internships that she says have helped guide her career path to helping others.

Ellen Gilbert

Illinois Wesleyan Athletic


Ellen Gilbert

In this issue of Beyond Sports, Gilbert explains what recognition means to her.

“It’s such an honor that I don’t know what to say,” said Gilbert. “I know there are great female athletes at both Wesleyan and other schools across the country. It’s really cool to have my name on it and it’s very humbling.”

family connection

Gilbert thought he needed to learn to keep boundaries with his brother Tommy, who was one of the IWU’s swimming coaches. But Gilbert said her brother, who is about ten years older, made it easier.

“It was like swimming for a great coach, but I got to spend time with him outside of practice,” she said. “We have fun together, but he has fun with everyone on the team.”

Gilbert called having his brother attend some of the team’s bigger competitions a “gift”. was,” she said.

Everything they went through included the COVID pandemic, which dashed her bid to compete in multiple events at the 2020 NCAA Division III Championship. It was difficult at times. She had to shuttle between two facilities while she returned to Northbrook to train for the 2021 season, which is still in doubt due to the pandemic.

“We were all using whatever resources were available. What I had was waterways here and there,” Gilbert said. “I’ve worked hard all year and didn’t want to lose it, so I just did what I could to make the best of my situation.”

Gilbert finished in the top five in Division III nationally in the 100m and 200m butterfly that season.


Gilbert says some of her most formative moments in college involved two internships at nonprofits. One was an employment counselor at Mark First, a Normal agency that helps people with developmental disabilities. One internship he did was as a mental health educator at Project Oz, a non-profit welfare agency in Bloomington.

Gilbert said he wants young people struggling with mental health to understand that they are not alone. And I know it will continue to be a big part of my message no matter what career path I end up in.”

Gilbert started his first job after graduating. He is a teacher at Milestones Early Learning Center & Preschool in Bloomington.

The NCAA will announce the Student-Athlete of the Year finalists in October and nominate the winners at its annual convention in January.

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