This Michigan Tech Winter Carnival, twin alumnae share Husky pride, Blue Key memories, student-athlete highlights — and how Michigan Tech changed them.
In a Michigan Tech Q&A, twins Jennifer (Jung) Lucas ’09 and Christa (Jung) Cooper ’09 talk about their differences, including academic majors, positions played and accolades received on the Michigan Tech volleyball team, and how they served on Blue Key Honor Society, the campus organization in charge of organizing and staging Winter Carnival.
Q: You both served in Blue Key Honor Society. What were your roles and how did you work to achieve your goals?
JJL: My first year in Blue Key, I was part of the publicity committee, and then senior year I was co-chair. Christa had her sights set on something with a little more influence.
CJC: That’s right, I was first a member of the queens committee (now royalty) and then I was Blue Key president our senior year.
JJL: In our era, publicity was focused on drumming up anticipation on campus for Winter Carnival and also the SnoBall. If memory serves me correctly, the dance had taken a small hiatus and we brought it back. Big credit to the swing club, who actually made it feel like a real dance!
CJC: As president, my focus was to zoom out and take a management role in order to ensure every committee was on task and that one of Michigan Tech’s most longstanding, unique and beloved traditions went off without a hitch! No matter what role or committee you serve on as a member of Blue Key, teamwork is the only way to achieve your goals.
"Winter Carnival is what it is today because of the hard work of members that came together before us, and it is up to the current members to continue the traditions while also innovating to keep Carnival embedded in the experience as a Husky."
Q: What are your favorite Winter Carnival memories?
CJC: I was afraid we’d be asked this question! My favorite thing about Winter Carnival is how it brings everyone together — guards down, labels removed, students, faculty, staff, local residents, children, alumni, families, etc. Everyone is just excited to be a part of something that can only be done in a place that chooses to celebrate getting that much snow, in a place we all call home.
Something people outside of our era of Blue Key (2008-09) might not know is that those speakers in the middle of campus that play during the All-Nighter almost were shut down. As president of Blue Key, I felt a huge weight of responsibility to make sure Winter Carnival continued to live up to the tradition and expectations and so I spent a majority of my time leading up to it pleading, petitioning and meeting with leadership and even City Council, if I remember correctly, to beg for the speaker tradition to continue.
Special shout out to Les Cook [former MTU vice president for student affairs and advancement], who championed the cause with me. He helped us reach a compromise to arrange the schedule so that as the evening progressed, the noise level would be incrementally lowered; that way the All-Nighter could have music until 3 a.m. and our off-campus neighbors could get some sleep.
JJL: Thinking of memories that are OK to share in this forum is harder than I thought it would be (I think a lot of alumni can relate)! My favorite memory ties into Christa’s story above (so I guess thanks again, Christa, for fighting the good fight), and is a fairly obvious answer: the big dance party in the middle of campus with the snow speakers during All-Nighter. You don’t even feel the cold! You see students, faculty, community members, everyone just all out and about and having a great time. I also really liked checking out all of the snow statues the next day after All-Nighter. I never built one, but I could certainly appreciate those who did.
Q: Both of you were student-athletes on MTU’s women’s volleyball team. What positions did you play? Can you share a highlight or two?
JJL: I was a middle blocker. A highlight for me was our final home series in fall 2008, senior weekend. It is an already emotionally loaded time for seniors, knowing your career in a sport you love is coming to an end, but what made it extra important was that we were fighting for a top seed in the GLIAC tournament — and of course wanting to earn another trip to the NCAA tournament — and playing a fairly tough duo at the time (Grand Valley State University and Ferris State). In a competitive 3-1 series Friday night against GVSU, I’m thrilled to say we won, and I remember standing in a circle on the court, after the game with my teammates, and being moved to tears. The energy in the gym from our fans, families, coaches, teammates, fellow student-athletes, the pep band, it all hit me in a way that has never happened before. It was awesome, and it was a rare moment for me. On the court, I was usually intense but fairly stoic, so I think my reaction surprised everyone — probably even Christa, ha!
CJC: I was a right side hitter. Senior weekend is extremely vivid for me as well, but I’ll share other favorites. One was our sophomore year — we had the whole team gathered at our house (on Vivian Street) waiting for our coaches to let us know if we made the NCAA tournament. Our coach (Krista Horsmon) had quite the poker face when she wanted to, and came in saying some speech about how eventually seasons end. I thought for sure we didn’t make it, but then she finished, saying the national committee thought ours should continue, and it was so exciting because it was the first time in years Tech qualified for the NCAA tournament. And now, Matt Jennings has taken that legacy and elevated the program to consistently be a contender to HOST the region — which, as an alumna, has been so amazing to watch. I’ve been lucky enough to have a front row seat to it, as I coached at Ferris State for a few years. Another favorite memory of mine was the pep band singing “You Are My Sunshine” on senior day — I think they still do that! The pep band in general is a favorite memory. They are the best in the nation and I get emotional every time I hear their lead-in with the drums and trumpets. I have yet to find a better pump-up than that!
JJL: Hear, hear on the pep band comment! Goose bumps when they would enter playing into the Wood Gym for games, or down the aisles of commencement. Nothing but love for the pep band.
Q: What are your graduation years and majors?
JJL and CJC: We both graduated magna cum laude in 2009, Jen with her B.S. in scientific and technical communication and Christa with her B.S. in psychology and a minor in coaching fundamentals.
Q: What do you do now?
JJL: I am actually back on campus, working for Michigan Tech as the assistant vice president of alumni engagement. My career path has taken a sort of full circle to this point: I got my start in the advancement field working as a student caller for the Michigan Tech Telefund, eventually moving into the call center manager role following graduation. I then moved to Minnesota, working in various alumni engagement and annual giving roles at several educational institutions before pivoting to corporate America and moving to Salt Lake City, working in industry relations in the health information systems division at 3M until this past November, when I moved back to Houghton for my current position.
CJC: I am the head volleyball coach at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. My coaching career has taken me many places in all division levels of NCAA volleyball. I began in Minnesota, followed by North Dakota, Montana and back to Michigan to be an assistant coach at Ferris State, then in 2019 earned my first head coaching position at the University of New Haven. I hope one day to bring my team to Houghton for a preseason tournament. I love competing in the SDC Wood Gym, and while New Haven is famous for its pizza joints, I personally think nothing beats The Ambassador (where I used to be a server as a student!).
Q: What advice do you have for current and future Huskies, whether on Blue Key, athletics teams or otherwise involved?
JJL: At times, I’m so impressed by how mature and thoughtful the students of Michigan Tech are, I often think there is nothing I could possibly teach them! I guess one piece of advice I’d give is to spread out into different areas. By that, I mean if you are a student-athlete, try to also join a student organization. I know how difficult it is to be a student-athlete and juggle that schedule (especially in-season with long travel weekends). Christa and I also both worked part-time jobs to put gas in our car and pay our bills, so it would have been really easy to say we had no time for Blue Key. But by making room to join Blue Key, we made friends, were involved in experiences and learned lessons we would have never had without it. Some of my closest friends from Tech and fondest memories are from Blue Key or through friendships because of Blue Key, and I am so very grateful.
CJC: One of the reasons why I chose Michigan Tech was because of the feeling of community that I got visiting campus during our recruiting trip. My advice for current and future students is to get involved and be as fully immersed as you can during your time at MTU. There are amazing opportunities to build your village, and you never know what special experience you might be missing out on or influential people you could meet while participating in various activities or organizations. I echo Jen’s sentiment that some of our closest friends and fondest memories are from being in Blue Key, in addition to our athletics community. I am forever grateful and proud to be a Husky, and I can’t imagine my experience without having been a part of all these different opportunities. As a head coach now, I am always telling recruits they have to explore to find their place — and that they’ll know it when they do — and the person you can become while in school, if you get involved and grow and allow yourself to be challenged, is going to change your life, and the entire experience will be so much more rewarding than if you didn’t explore.
Q: Tell us a story about how Michigan Tech changed you.
CJC and JJL: Our entire life trajectory changed because of Michigan Tech. We think about the things that had to happen for us to even get to Tech and then to thrive while there: Our parents sacrificed so much to make sure we played on a high-level club volleyball team, yet still prioritized our academic studies for a better future. Krista (our coach at Tech) saw something in us and offered us scholarships to play — as is the case for many prospective students, scholarships were the only way we could afford college. Our teammates were our closest friends and confidants, our professors and advisors helped us juggle the challenges of being student-athletes. The bosses we had while working part-time jobs both on campus and off, and of course, as we mentioned, all of the other leaders, community members and classmates we had the privilege of getting to know at Tech — all of these people left imprints and influenced us, molding us to become the people we are today.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about your twin sister? What’s your favorite thing about being a twin?
JJL: Oh, our parents will really like this one! I think my favorite thing about being a twin is really how much it pushed me to work harder, try more and be better. When you are basically held up to a mirror your whole life, measured next to someone who looks like you, sounds like you, has similar interests, etc., inevitably there is going to be competition, but I have always said that competition worked in our favor. Christa and I were always challenging each other because we didn’t want to come in second place. I don’t know if I would have achieved as much, or met as many people, or worked as hard as I did at school, volleyball, work, etc., if I didn’t know that if I slacked at all, she’d “beat me.” That probably sounds a little unhinged to people who aren’t naturally competitive, but I promise I mean it in a good way! We also like to swap ideas for books, podcasts, shows, music and fashion, so I appreciate sharing her taste in all that, too.
My favorite thing about Christa is probably her visible passion for all the things she gets involved with, but especially volleyball. She always loved it so much, in a way I admire, and to see her as a head coach now really fits. I get to keep learning more about the game and how it has advanced through her.
CJC: My favorite thing about Jen is the strength of her conviction. She has grown and evolved throughout our lives, but when she is committed to or believes in something, you want her on your team. People like her always challenge and elevate those around them — which leads well into my favorite part of being a twin. We drive all of our loved ones a little nuts with how competitive we can be, but it has always been the thing that has pushed us to take on challenges, be resilient and keep growing. Both of us are incredibly passionate about teamwork, family and bringing people together. I think the reason for that foundation being so strong in both of us is because we are twins, and that is my favorite part of being one.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.