Noelle Pikus Pace’s Zigzag Path to Success

Olympian and CTU Graduate Noelle Pikus Pace to speak at CTU 2015 graduationImagine riding a small sled, lying face down with your chin and toes just millimeters from a track of frigid, hardened ice—at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. If the frozen track were a straight path to the finish line success would be easy, but it’s not.

Noelle Pikus Pace, the 2014 American Olympic silver medalist in women’s skeleton, knows all too well that success does not follow a straight path. As a professional skeleton racer, Noelle has navigated the tricky curves of a skeleton track—claiming five world championship medals and eventually the Olympic medal. But her real success comes from her journey through the hills and valleys she encountered as she pursued her dream for an Olympic medal.

The Importance of a College Education

Noelle was raised in a family where education was a priority. From an early age, her parents instilled in her the importance of receiving a college education. Despite her athletic ambitions, she knew that an education would come before sports.

Although she set her sights on earning a bachelor’s degree, the more difficult decision was choosing an area of study. “I had five to six different pursuits as an undergraduate,” confesses Noelle—from law and elementary education to philosophy and kinesiology. She ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree in Community Health, but when faced with the realization that her next logical step would be a career in healthcare administration, Noelle decided to change course.

“I made the decision to earn an MBA ,” says Noelle, who enrolled in CTU’s online graduate degree program after receiving rave reviews from her brother-in-law, also a CTU alumnus. “Fortunately, CTU’s online learning format allowed me to pursue my degree while also competing at the World Cup level and training for the Olympics.”

New Opportunities

Noelle has always been a forward thinker—looking ahead to envision what’s next in her career and in life. After earning her MBA in 2007, she discovered a new interest in entrepreneurship. “Being at CTU—interacting with fellow classmates and professors—opened my mind to new possibilities,” she explains.

Noelle wanted a way to increase income for her family while also remaining competitive in her sport. Drawing inspiration from experiences described on class discussion boards and applying the intellectual knowledge she gained through her studies, she finally landed on business concept—SnowFire Hats, an online retailer of fun, creative beanies. ”I’ve always wanted to own a business,” she says and what better way to combine her passion and interests than to add a unique twist to the traditional winter hat.

In between her athletic, educational and entrepreneurial endeavors, Noelle pursued her dream of starting a family. She had her first child, a daughter, in 2008 and also has a son. Currently she is pregnant with twin boys who are due in early August.

Challenges Are a Part of Success

There is no question that Noelle is a high-achiever, but with success she has endured challenges that might have sidelined someone with less tenacity and perseverance. In 2005 her Olympic hopes were dashed following a freak accident that left her right leg broken. She came back to compete in the 2010 Olympics, finishing fourth place.

Then, in 2012, Noelle faced another challenge—she suffered a miscarriage when she was 18 weeks pregnant. Heartbroken, she grieved and fought the depression she was feeling. Her husband, Janson, encouraged her to return to what she loved—skeleton. With some prodding, she eventually came out of retirement but had one demand—her family had to be by her side.

Noelle went on to win a silver medal at the 2014 Olympics, and she did it on her terms. She shares how her choices led her to success in her new book, Focused: Keeping Your Life on Track, One Choice at a Time.

What’s next for her? “Right now, my priority is being at home with my family,” says the soon-to-be mother of four children. And she’s making plans to write her next book.