TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- On the outside, Casey Levitt is outgoing, bubbly and a social butterfly.
Much of her personality probably hails from the beaches of California, where she grew up on the sand volleyball court, in Thousand Oaks – to be exact – just 40 miles from Los Angeles.
On the inside, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology senior has overcame her own challenges. When she arrived in Terre Haute three years ago, she made an instant impact on the court as a starter for the Engineers’ varsity squad.
Off the court, the art of balancing a full biomedical engineering course load combined with social obligations and athletic success proved to be a challenge that nearly got the best of her.
“We were constantly on the road,” Levitt recalled. “So I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll do my homework later, I’ll do my homework later.’ Well, ‘later’ kept being the day before, or the day of, and I really didn’t do well my freshman fall quarter.
“My parents were like, ‘What are you doing?’
Fast forward to her senior season, and Levitt just smiles when it comes to talking about her academic resume, which now includes the DJ Angus Scientech Award. The honor is given to the student who has shown the most improvement in GPA between their first- and second-year fall quarters.
“I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere else, so I just kind of got my life together and said, ‘This is where I want to be,’” said Levitt, who sacrificed a California summer to take classes in Terre Haute. “I knew I had to work hard if I want to be anywhere near staying here, and I’ve worked pretty hard to stay here.”
With her academics in order, Levitt has remained a consistent factor for the Engineers’ volleyball squad. She’s played in every set for Rose-Hulman this fall, ranking second in both kills (110) and digs (178).
Rose-Hulman head coach Brenda Goble, who has roamed the sidelines since the program’s beginning 18 seasons ago, knew she had something special before Levitt even stepped on campus for the first time.
“Actually, she was a long shot,” Goble said of Levitt, who graduated Westlake High with years of sand and club volleyball under her belt. “I reach out to a maybe a dozen ‘long shot’ kids per year, so she was one of my long shot kids. Case could have gone to some places and played scholarship ball, she could have stayed in the state of California.
“But when I talked to her about our biomedical engineering program, it kind of sparked her interest.”
So after a three-day volleyball tournament in Reno, Nev., Levitt hopped on a flight and arrived in Indiana in what Goble remembers as the “wee hours of the morning.”
It didn’t take long for her to realize she’d found her place.
“I got up the next morning, I went to breakfast, I took a tour, went to class, went to (Rose-Hulman) Ventures and left – and I knew,” Levitt said.
“I just kind of knew this was the school for me … I wanted to play volleyball, I wanted to go to a great school, I wanted to be in a sorority – I wanted to do everything that I could do and Rose-Hulman gave me that opportunity and it felt like home the second I stepped on campus.”
Levitt’s time is scheduled to the max as a senior, and she continues to make it all work. She works in the campus admissions office, giving tours and emailing prospective students, among other duties. She’s the Community Service Director for Chi Omega, where her two big projects entail a 5K race in November and March’s Dishes for Wishes, a program that uses a buffet dinner to raise money to sponsor a child for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Coming from a childhood where she’s appeared in movies and television shows like “Big Bang Theory,” Levitt’s loaded activity slate is not surprising.
Oh, and she’s still a huge factor for the Engineers volleyball team, which won its first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title in 2011 when Levitt was a sophomore. The Engineers will also get to complete a trip to California this season, facing off with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Pomona Pitzer and Cal Lutheran.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Levitt, with all three matches located just over an hour from Thousand Oaks.
“It’s really nice just to go home,” Levitt said, smiling about the trip. “It will be nice to see my family and play against schools that I know I looked at and have friends at. It will just be nice to go home and play.”
Levitt’s importance to the team is also not to be overlooked. In Goble’s words, she’s the “true definition of competiveness, or gamer.”
“She’s a go-to player for us, and she has been, since her sophomore,” Goble said. “She’s stepped up and took the reins for us, so to speak, in making big plays, getting the team excited, and really helping us come back in matches where we’ve been down so far and everyone watching counted us out.”
“She’s never thrown in the towel and that’s a huge part of our tradition with Rose-Hulman volleyball, it’s that, ‘Hey, it’s not over till it’s over.’ … I really feel that she lives by that philosophy – she walks the walk and talks the talk.”
Levitt certainly didn’t throw in the towel on her challenges at Rose-Hulman. Instead, she embraced them. Because of that, graduate school – where she hopes to focus on research of bones and the biomechanics of joints and knees – is now a major possibility.
“I’ve worked pretty hard to stay here, and I’m still here,” she said candidly of her time at Rose.
“It’s hard – you work a lot and you’re always busy, but it’s totally worth it.”