Nov. 5, 2008
By Rhiannon Potkey
Ventura County Star
Roxanne Levenson scoured the Pepperdine University campus searching for the best prospects.
She covered all the fields, hit the pool deck and scanned the gym. She read transcripts, talked to coaches and queried professors.
The Pepperdine associate athletics director finally found her desired target soaring above the volleyball net.
Relying on a "gut feeling," Levenson submitted Julie Rubenstein's name at the top of her list last year to represent Pepperdine on the West Coast Conference's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Not only was Rubenstein selected, but the conference took it a step beyond by nominating Rubenstein to represent the entire WCC on the NCAA's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
The Oaks Christian School graduate and Camarillo resident is one of 31 Division I student-athletes nationwide serving on the committee.
"I had a tremendous amount of confidence in Julie and knew she would be outstanding in that role," Levenson said. "It pushed her outside of her comfort zone, but I thought it would be really good for her because she has the personality, intelligence and leadership capabilities."
Always known for her excellent volleyball skills, Rubenstein has broadened her horizons socially, athletically and academically during her four years at Pepperdine.
The senior outside hitter has traveled abroad, contributed to legislation and developed into a complete player while never missing a single set.
Rubenstein is leading the Waves this season with 4.18 kills per game and swept the Most Valuable Player awards at four straight tournaments earlier in the year.
"Time is flying by so quickly, and I am really getting sad at the fact that the season is almost over," Rubenstein said. "That is the attitude I have taken each weekend -- to really appreciate every moment and not take anything for granted."
Rubenstein never wanted to be defined just as a volleyball player in college. She lives off campus with friends who don't play sports and is active in many clubs not directly related to athletics.
Just walking around Pepperdine's Malibu campus demonstrates the reach of Rubenstein's personality.
She is recognized by nearly everyone, and not just because of her 6-foot-3 stature.
"I like to take the time to get to know people and know who I am around in my classes," said Rubenstein, a liberal arts major with a 3.5 GPA. "If I am in the cafeteria and I don't know the people at my table, I introduce myself."
But taking a role on a national committee was never in Rubenstein's plans until Levenson called and told her to write an essay.
Suddenly, Rubenstein found herself on conference calls with athletic representatives and attending meetings across the country.
"I tend to get shy sometimes in front of big groups, so for me this was something unimaginable," said Rubenstein, Pepperdine's Female Student-Athlete of the Year last year. "But I am so thankful Roxanne put that opportunity in my hands. I have grown to really, really love it."
Rubenstein is the first athlete in Pepperdine history to be a member of the national SAAC board.
But making history at Pepperdine is nothing new for the Rubenstein family.
Rubenstein's grandfather, Gary Colson, was Pepperdine's first athletics director and men's basketball coach at the Malibu campus.
In her role on the national committee, Rubenstein helps provide the student-athlete's perspective on legislative proposals.
Recently, she was selected as the only Division I student-athlete to be on the Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid committee.
"It is really cool to see how our voice is heard in the NCAA and how these big-timers are listening to what we have to say and taking it into account," Rubenstein said. "It has been a really fun opportunity to go behind the scenes of the rules and all that."
Pepperdine senior middle blocker Cassi Chamberlain marvels at how Rubenstein seamlessly juggles school, SAAC and sports.
"The girl does so much and she never complains about anything," Chamberlain said. "She is always on top of things. I really don't know how she does it, but she has that drive to get it all done."
Rubenstein gravitated to volleyball after some unsuccessful experimentation with other sports.
She played AYSO for a few years, but wasn't very good. Her dad even teased her that she only played for the treats after games.
Despite her height, basketball was much of the same.
But she was a natural at volleyball from the start, and continued her development in college.
"She has worked really hard the last two years getting physically stronger and has become a total volleyball player," said Pepperdine head coach Nina Matthies, in her 26th season. "She really doesn't have a weak part of her game at all and that makes her hard to defend."
Rubenstein took a mental vacation from the sport last summer by studying abroad in Switzerland for five weeks.
She visited seven countries during her stay, and called the trip "the best time of my life."
"By that point I was sick of volleyball and wanted a break and it turned out to be great," she said. "Coming back after having not played made me want to play so bad. It was like I fell in love with the game again."
Although her future is still undecided, Rubenstein wants to continue playing volleyball for as long as possible after graduating.
The two-time, first-team all-WCC selection has considered a professional career in Europe or exploring her Olympic opportunities.
But Rubenstein still has a few more months to make an impact on and off the court at Pepperdine.
"I don't want to leave school wishing I had accomplished more or the team had done better," she said. "I want to leave it all out there."