MTU Spirit Times Two: Q&A with the Jung Twins

Maria J. Danford

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.”Christa (Jung) Cooper ’09, former Blue Key President

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. 

Numbers 4 and 7 stand before a volleyball net in the wood gym for Michigan Tech.
The Jung twins — a force on and off the court — say their competitive natures have
been integral to their success. (Archival volleyball images courtesy Michigan Tech
Athletics)

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.

A smiling woman wearing a Michigan Tech Husky scarf and earrings sits on a chair with a bookcase behind her.
This Winter Carnival, you’ll find Jen (Jung) Lucas greeting fellow Huskies at Alumni
House. She returned to campus this fall to continue her work in alumni engagement
and advancement.

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.

A woman squats on a gym floor with a blue hornets sign behind her coaching a volleyball game.
Christa (Jung) Cooper on the job. (Image Credit: Clarus Studios)

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.

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