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Claire Skach dancing in her graduation gown in the Memorial Union

One in a million

By McKinley Smith

Originally posted in The Daily Barometer

Photo: Nicki Silva

Biology senior juggles passion for science and dance

Bill Skach described his daughter, Claire Skach, as “a person of contrasts.”

Her love of science and her creative energy are two very different aspects of her that help to make her very multidimensional, according to Bill Skach.

“I did the full IB [International Baccalaureate] program in high school and my biology teacher was amazing and I took it for two years and I just fell in love with it,” said Claire Skach, a senior in biology. “I did pretty good on the IB bio test, but I went to college thinking I’d do chemistry.”

Instead, Claire Skach gravitated to biology with pre-dental in mind.

She’d been interested in dentistry since sixth grade, according to her father, who, with his biochemistry background, was able to help her with chemistry homework in high school — to the jealousy of her peers — and field higher-level questions while she was in college.

“I’ve always just like had an interest in teeth. I got braces when I was young, and it was like my favorite thing that I’ve ever done. I just loved it,” Claire Skach said. “I loved my dentist when I was younger. I’m interested in science, it just, everything kind of just led to that.”

But science wasn’t the only thing on her plate. As an avid performer of rhythmic gymnastics with more than a decade of experience and two years on the United States National Team for rhythmic gymnastics — where she ranked eight in the nation — Claire Skach wanted to also pursue dance. Colleges do not offer programs for rhythmic gymnastics, according to Claire Skach.

“So when I got to college, I decided that the natural extension of that would be doing dance,” Claire Skach said. “And rhythmic is more dance-based than normal gymnastics, we do a lot of ballet and that kind of stuff.”

She enrolled at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. for her freshman and sophomore years, but the lackluster dance opportunities got her looking elsewhere.

“I really liked the place and the school, but after doing the dance team and taking some of their dance classes, it just didn’t have as much dance as I wanted,” Claire Skach said.

Midway through her sophomore year, she transferred to Oregon State University, her father’s alma mater.

“It was probably the most difficult thing I’d ever done because I had to, you know, say goodbye to all my friends that I’d made freshman and sophomore year,” Claire Skach said.

Claire Skach, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta since her Whitman days, remained involved with the sorority.

“(It’s) amazing to bond with sisters from another school and also still participate in philanthropies and charities that my old chapter did,” Claire Skach said.

Participating in the sorority helped define her experience in college.

“It was an incredible, eye-opening experience for me because I am really shy,” Claire Skach said. “Having all of those sisters made me open up and take on more leadership roles and do things that I wouldn’t have done around strangers.”

At OSU, Claire Skach “started taking like every dance class there was, like tumbling, jazz, modern, ballroom. All the PAC classes.”

She also auditioned for two years with the Utah Ballroom Dance Company.

“That was hard because I missed school and I’d be gone working all weekend, but I think my gymnastics training in high school and doing full IB and everything prepared me really well to be in college and still having that very demanding extracurricular activity,” Claire Skach said. “That’s been like a very fun, growing, challenging experience for me.”

Milly Skach, Claire Skach’s mother, said her daughter has great time management and multitasking abilities.

“She always works really hard at what she does and has learned to prioritize so she can fit everything in,” Milly Skach said.

Claire Skach will walk Saturday, June 13.

“We’re just so proud,” Milly Skach said. “She’s one in a million.”

Prior to making any big decisions about her career, Claire Skach plans to take a two-week, cross-country trip to her parent’s new home in Maryland and then taking a year or two to dance.

“She’s got to decide where to work it into her life,” Bill Skach said.