Keilani Bonis-Ericksen (senior) is finishing her standout tennis and academic career at Occidental with her best season yet. A geology major and Spanish minor from Hawaii and co-captain of the women’s tennis team, she has spent the past four years at Occidental dedicating herself equally to the sport and to her passion for environmental conservation.
Bonis-Ericksen shined in a match against Whittier this past February, the team’s top conference rival, winning the final doubles match to clinch the Occidental victory. Head coach Ghia Godfree celebrated the doubles victory of Bonis-Ericksen and her partner Samantha Ferrel (sophomore) against Whittier.
“I have never seen [Bonis-Ericksen] so focused as she and [Ferrel] battled with the Poets,” Godfree said via email. “[Bonis-Ericksen] and [Ferrel] were determined to win. They played flawless, aggressive tennis and clinched the tiebreaker.”
According to Godfree, Bonis-Ericksen performed well even under extreme pressure, using her strong forehand during the match to her advantage.
“When [Bonis-Ericksen] finally walked off the court victorious, both teams were stunned,” Godfree said via email. “It took our team a minute to fully realize we had beaten Whittier for the first time in five years.”
Bonis-Ericksen’s father first got her into the sport when she was little. She preferred tennis because she could still succeed and improve on her game despite her small stature and feels that the best part of the game is its mental aspect.
“Tennis is always interesting — every point is different,” Bonis-Ericksen said. “When you’re down, you have to stay calm and know that you have a chance to come back.”
Now a senior, Bonis-Ericksen manages both her academic and athletic life at Occidental with ease. She also tutors introductory geology to students twice a week through the Scientific Scholars Achievement Program (SSAP). As a geology major, Bonis-Ericksen deals with a rigorous schedule, taking up to three courses during the tennis season while balancing four-hour long matches on school days.
Bonis-Ericksen’s interest in Spanish led her to study abroad in Granada, Spain. She has also been able to explore much of California, traveling to the Mohave Desert, Mammoth, San Diego and the Sierra Nevada Mountains on geology field trips. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in environmental science or conservation.
Bonis-Ericksen finished her senior comprehensive project in the middle of tennis season. She studied the effects of future sea level rise on coastal erosion on the island of Kauai, collaborating with the Coastal Geology Research Group in Hawaii to project the extent of shoreline retreat around Kauai in the year 2100 via Geographic Information Systems. She hopes her research will give planners and developers insight into preventing coastal damage and protecting the coastline as the sea level rises.
After graduation, Bonis-Ericksen plans on spending time abroad and then applying to environmental jobs related to marine conservation and coastal geology. Her ultimate dream is to work at the Nature Conservancy.
Looking back on her tennis career at Occidental, Bonis-Ericksen said that this season’s team performed at the highest level. She credits much of this success to Godfree, who has helped the team improve drastically. Bonis-Ericksen hopes that she has contributed some positive energy to the women’s team and has shown them that competing is fun.
“[Bonis-Ericksen’s] dedication and passion will be sorely missed next year,” Godfree said via email. “She is an inspiration to our younger players and a benchmark for the level they work towards. [Bonis-Ericksen] Keilani embodies the Tiger heart of all Oxy student-athletes by excelling on the courts and off.”