On a team filled with talent and leaders, senior Manfred Jeske stands out among the crowd. A senior chemical engineering major, Jeske took a leap of faith this fall and took a co-op with a consulting company in Louisiana, opting to learn on the job instead of in the classroom for a few months. This feature delves into his academics as well as his play on the court and learns how Jeske balanced it all while away this past fall.
Tell us about your co-op and how you spent your fall semester away from Fayetteville.
I started in Shreveport, La., for about four months, starting this summer, working for a consulting company. I got to help with reactor design and plant design. It was really interesting because I always thought, “Wow, none of this school stuff really makes sense.” But finally, I was able to see exactly how it applied in real life. Then, it turns out I got the opportunity to work for their brother company in Smackover, Ark., so I spent two months working in a refinery getting hands on experience doing calculations and working in the plant. I went to back to the consulting company for two months and finished up in December.
I learned how people actually work and what the ‘real world’ is really like. I was in communication with the leaders of my company and got to go on lunches with clients, saw all of the aspects of the workforce. It gave me a whole new experience on my courses here. I can see how I’m really going to use everything in my courses now. I feel like I’m more focused now because I’m learning for the rest of my life; I guess I knew that all along but I think I had to really see these things in practice. I want to learn so much more and I know that whatever I learn now, I’m going to use in two years when I leave here.
Did your experience this fall have an impact on your future plans or do you still plan to pursue a career in chemical engineering and consulting?
I’m honestly not sure. There are just so many things you can do, especially with engineering. I could return to working with the oil companies, which I liked, and is probably the most attractive field for chemical engineers at the moment because there’s a lot of future implications but you can also work with enzymes or pharmaceuticals, alternative energies. There are just so many companies and I haven’t made up my mind. I think I’d like to get my MBA while I’m finishing my undergrad and, after that, see what I really wanted to do. I want to be an engineer but I don’t want to just be an engineer. I want to be able to do the work but also be a leader in my field.
Working a nine to five job is different from being a student in many ways. What kind of impact did that have on your training and practice schedule?
It was pretty hard to adjust. For example, I worked all day each day and stayed late most days, then I would have to drive home, make my own food and by that time most of the day is gone. I couldn’t really find anyone to practice with me in Shreveport and most of our tournaments were when I was in Smackover, I could only find one court there. It had plants growing in it! My roommate would play with me but he wasn’t a tennis player. We’d go to the court and I’d serve to him and he would just chase the balls and bring them back to me, it was really funny. It was hard to have that much less practice and try to play tournaments at this level.
Now, being back, the practice is more structured and frequent so I’m having to adjust back.
You have been extremely successful with your doubles partner, Mike Nott. How did your being away affect your team chemistry this fall?
We couldn’t really work out together, just competed all fall, which is probably why our results weren’t where we wanted them. It was hard not being together. It’s okay though because we’ve been playing together for so long that we have an easy partnership. We’re ready to start playing together and getting some wins. We will definitely be stronger this spring and we want to get back to the NCAA tournament because we think we can do better than last year. We are ready to test ourselves against SEC competition because that’s the strongest division in the country.
While you were away this summer and fall, Andy Jackson was installed as the new head coach of the Razorbacks. Was it difficult for you to adjust to this change since you were gone and unable to practice with him daily this fall?
It was good to be able to play in the fall because that was my only interaction with coach Jackson before the spring season. It was quite different to come back, even though coach Jackson’s style is similar to what we’ve done in the past, but I had to adjust to regular practices as well as his style. He focuses a lot more on conditioning. It’s also nice to have Nestor Briceno as our new assistant coach, he was a great player for coach Jackson and so he’s got a very modern understanding of the game as well as the ability to play with us. It’s been a very smooth transition but I definitely think being gone had an impact.
As a senior and a leader of this team, what has been your main focus in regards to the younger members of the squad?
I’ve mostly been trying to introduce the freshman to our program and what it requires of you to play in the SEC. Young players come in and they have no idea what it’s going to be like, there’s a different level of pressure and you can’t know that until you’re in it. I want to help them be confident and ready, both on and off the court. There are so many international players and I know what that’s like so I want to help them wherever I can.