Evita Griskenas Balances Rhythmic Gymnastics and Rigorous Study

This Columbia College senior is aiming for a career in sports psychology.

Eve Glasberg
January 23, 2024

Notebook is a Columbia News series that highlights just some of the many fascinating students who study at our University. 

In addition to being a Columbia student, Evita Griskenas is a Team USA rhythmic gymnast, who represented the United States at the 2020 summer Olympics. She was the 2022 USA national all-around champion, a member of the 2023 World Championships team, and the 2023 Pan American Games all-around silver medalist. Look for Evita on the steps in front of Low Library, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, or in competition.

When are you graduating from Columbia, and what is your major?

I am in the Columbia College class of '24, graduating in the spring, and I am a psychology major.

What drew you to that academic concentration?

The beautiful thing about psychology is that you can tailor your educational path to your interests. While I have always had a knack for studying people, the more invested I became in my major, the more I gravitated toward the neuroscience-related courses.

By the end of my time at Columbia, I have developed a growing curiosity for the mind-brain-to-behavior connections, partially because I find that a lot of my perspectives, questions, and approaches to my studies are influenced by athletic connections, and partially because the brain is a fascinating, malleable landscape to study. Right now, my favorite psychology topics are neural plasticity, mental imagery, and, as a result, the crossovers between neural correlates and physical performance.

Columbia University student Evita Griskenas

How do you like studying in New York? What are your favorite urban activities?

I adore New York and have seriously started calling it my home. I love to explore the urban landscape while still having access to natural scenery. It is so easy to get "lost" in New York and feel like you are in an entirely different country, just by stepping into a single neighborhood or shop.

That said, being a Columbia student significantly contributes to this perspective. After all, campus always gives me a (relatively) quiet and calm place to return to; not only is it historically inspiring (I've had many reflective moments on the Low Library steps), but the campus also has my people (professors and friends), who are genuinely excited to work with me and make me feel welcome.

Any recommendations for how to best enjoy the city beyond campus?

When it is nice outside, I recommend going to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. And make sure you explore New York’s museums and pop-up experiences.

How do you manage to balance your time doing gymnastics with studying and leisure activities?

One motto I live by is, "I don't know how yet, but it will get done." In order to maintain both academics and athletics, I have to fly between New York and Chicago (where I train) almost weekly. As a result, a lot of my studying is done in opportune windows of time (on an airplane, in the gym during breaks, campus days, etc). That said, I also attribute my balancing act between gymnastics, studies, and leisure time to extreme planning—having a general idea of tasks that need to get done as well as time slots (for rest or work) is very helpful!

What do you hope to do after college?

I would ultimately like to continue my athletic career, as well as obtain a PhD that would enable me to work in the field of sports psychology.