NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On any given day you might find Jordan Newham at Wrigley Field, at a country music concert, practicing her bowling game, working the marketing table at a sports event or cracking open her Vanderbilt textbooks.
Such is the life of this Vanderbilt bowling senior and soon-to-be-graduate – a blur of activity that mixes her To-Do list with a prudent eye on the future horizon. She has a lot she wants to accomplish, which helps explain why she seldom sleeps past 5 a.m.
Jordan’s recent checklist is divided into two categories: working on admission to graduate school and honing her bowling skills, a continuation of her efforts over the last dozen years.
“I want to attend business school and I’ve been studying for the GRE,” Newham said. “My first choice would be to get a master’s in marketing from Vanderbilt or an MBA from Belmont, with MTSU as an option because of its MBA in music.”
The Aurora, Ill., native traded the Jonas Brothers for country music as she was entering high school. Now, after four years at Vanderbilt, living minutes from Nashville’s famous Music Row has done nothing to dilute that interest.
“I like country artists because of the stories their music tells,” Newham said. “There are a lot of good messages in that music. My favorites are Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and lately, I’m enjoying Mitchell Tenpenny – a newer artist.
“I really enjoy live music and going to concerts,” she continued. “They are really fun. I don’t play an instrument, I haven’t had the time although I’ve thought about learning the guitar after I graduate if I have more time. My passion for country music has made me want to work in the music industry, especially living in Nashville.”
When a singer gets her attention, Newham zeros in.
“I like picking out an artist and listening to their whole album. A lot of artists have good, full complete albums. When I like someone I try to listen to everything they have to offer.”
Newham hoped to land an internship in Nashville’s music industry. Instead, she enjoyed an experience interning for IMG College at Vanderbilt, a giant sports marketing company. Through this introduction she’s realized that sports marketing could also offer career opportunities.
Newham is no stranger to sports. Growing up in a family of Chicago Cubs fans – which incidentally puts her in good graces with many around Vanderbilt’s bowling program – sports came naturally to the eventual Commodore student-athlete.
“My Grandma Bess was a die-hard Cubs fan, very, very passionate about the Cubs,” Newham said. “When they won the World Series the first person I called was Grandma Bess.”
Not surprisingly, it was Grandma Bess, her maternal grandmother, who gave her a push into the world of bowling.
“I started bowling when I was eight, just for fun,” Jordan said. “My grandma bought me my first bowling ball; it was very basic. I went to the sporting goods store to get it sized and she wanted it to be a surprise so I had to keep it a secret. I did the Saturday leagues and enjoyed it, they had coaches that would walk around and try to help you. When I was about 12, I was showing improvement and taking it more seriously and my dad began lining up area coaches.”
Parents Ed and Jill [Bess’ daughter] have carved out a piece of Vanderbilt fan history in their own right. They have never missed a tournament during Jordan’s four years on West End, traveling an estimated 67,000 total miles to watch their daughter in 48 tournaments. They have their share of delayed or canceled flights to prove it.
“I am really lucky,” Jordan said. “My mom always said her parents would be at every single thing they did and that’s the standard they followed. It means a lot to have that kind of support. And it’s not just about me; my parents love seeing the team so it’s a lot more for them than just seeing me.”
The Newhams could be a prototype for other parents in any or all sports.
“My parents are of the idea that if I’m not bowling well there is surely someone else that can do better and help get the win,” Newham said. “I can have a bad tournament and my parents will be upbeat afterwards and talk about how others did well. They want me to succeed but sometimes it’s just not my moment and they understand that.”
Jordan is unsure how much bowling she will do after graduating. She will share a house with former Stephen F. Austin star Paige Kraushaaur, who moved to Nashville to study and practice nursing. Newham will bowl in the upcoming Queens and has already qualified for the USBC Intercollegiate Singles Championship right after the NCAA finals.
As her Vanderbilt career nears its culmination, Newham said she will remember the team’s international trip to Australia and the Soles4Souls service trip to Jamaica. She also knows her days as a collegiate athlete are numbered, and those “little” things that don’t feel special at the time — laughing until crying with her teammates at dinner — will one day be no more. And she will remember the thrill of winning a national championship in 2018, the pinnacle of accomplishment for only the most fortunate of student-athletes.
Newham said she will carry many memories and lessons with her.
“The program taught me a lot about myself and my work ethic,” she said. “The way the program is run; we take things seriously and that will benefit me in the real world. I didn’t know a lot about time management when I came in here but I learned real quickly.
“I’ve learned how to work with people in difficult situations,” she continued. “There are times when we weren’t performing and we had to find a way to succeed. I’ve learned a lot about how to work with different kinds of people. And I’ve learned how to be disciplined, not that I wasn’t before but Coach [Williamson] instills a structure that I appreciate, such as to always be early and to have high expectations that at the time can feel tedious.”