Blake Chasen, a junior on the Carnegie Mellon University's men's basketball team, is no stranger to adversity. An injury sent him to the sideline for the duration of his sophomore year, but after significant rehab and hard work, he established himself as a pivotal player for the Tartans in 2014-2015 and a leader amongst teammates and other athletes.
Chasen relishes the academic environment that is the hallmark of Carnegie Mellon, and with an extra year available to play due to a medical hardship waiver, he has transformed his academic interests and expanded to three majors, adding philosophy to the mix of business and creative writing.
"I've been interested in business since high school," said Chasen. "When I came here, I rediscovered my love for reading and writing."
The addition of philosophy came about from reading a wide variety of literature, as many of the books he has read incorporate concepts and ideas from philosophy. His passion for helping others is another contributing factor.
A Maryland native who attended high school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Chasen was drawn to Carnegie Mellon because of the diversity of the school.
"I wanted my college experience to include a city," said Chasen. "I went to a high school tucked away in the woods, so CMU is a great, new experience for me. CMU has great academics and has also allowed me to keep playing basketball."
Basketball has provided its own set of challenges as the Tartans compete in the University Athletic Association (UAA), a premier Division III conference, and Chasen, like any other athlete, didn't expect to be sidelined with an injury.
"It feels awesome to be back on the court," said Chasen. "It was hard sitting out sophomore year and watching my teammates play while thinking about how I wasn't able to contribute. But now, knowing that I can be there for them feels great.
"My biggest takeaway from the whole experience is that I don't take basketball for granted anymore," Chasen continued. "I did a lot of work to come back from my knee injury, and I'm so grateful to be able to play again."
Chasen credits the Carnegie Mellon atmosphere for assisting him over the hurdle and expanding his interests away from the court.
"Carnegie Mellon gives a person the opportunity to flourish in both athletics and academics," said Chasen. "The coaches here really care about what we do off the court as well. They help encourage me to be the best basketball player I can be and also be a great student."
While balancing his academic interests, Chasen has taken on the role of Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) President. The rising senior has emerged as a leader of the athletics community by truly feeling he's a member of not only the men's basketball team but also the entire department.
"I care about each athlete and team here at CMU," said Chasen. "My goal is to bring that passion to SAAC and to try to unify the department because of all the great things that are going on."
While Chasen will be a senior next fall by academic standing, he was accepted to the Fifth-Year Scholars Program at Carnegie Mellon, resulting in an additional year to study, an opportunity to make an impact on the Carnegie Mellon community, and to play basketball.
The Fifth-Year Scholars Program is designed to provide distinguished students with an opportunity to pursue a broadened educational experience while continuing to enhance the Carnegie Mellon community. The program also offers students support in their personal and professional growth.
"Philosophy will be my course of study during my fifth year and my community impact project will be geared toward unifying our community, both athletically and with regards to the general population," said Chasen.
With two years left to leave an impact on the men's basketball program, Chasen has hopes the team can win a UAA Championship.
"I think we have the perfect group of guys to do that," said Chasen. "We're motivated, we work together, and we really care about each other."
While Chasen will have two more years to play basketball, he might be more excited about the opportunity to make an impression on the life of a child close to the Tartans. The men's basketball program partnered with Team IMPACT in the fall and has been matched with a young boy fighting leukemia. Chasen has been the driving force of connectivity between the two.
"Team IMPACT is important to me because I care about children," said Chasen. "As athletes we have the opportunity to connect with children in need in ways that others might not be able to.
"We weren't able to do much with Camden this year because he really had a hard time," said Chasen. "But we are looking forward to expanding our relationship with him over the course of next year, and I relish the opportunity to offer camaraderie and support to Camden during a difficult time."
Other interests for Chasen lie at his fingertips as he's writing a novel, working to finish it with his advisor next year.
"I'm looking forward to post-grad opportunities though my ultimate goal is to be a novelist," said Chasen. "I hope to write a book or series one day that means a lot to me and that other people enjoy and respect."