Athlete Profile: Emily Eliis

Emily Ellis, a senior television major, wants to be more than just a face in front of the camera. She wants to be behind it, too. 

Ellis, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, transferred to Columbia at the beginning of her junior year to pursue her dream of creating and acting in her own TV show. She now spends her nights playing libero—specializing in defense and serve reception on the court—for the Renegades co-ed volleyball team. 

The Chronicle spoke with Ellis about her history with volleyball, the challenges of playing on a co-ed club team, changing her major, career goals and her biggest inspirations professionally. 

THE CHRONICLE: How long have you been playing volleyball?

EMILY ELLIS: I have been playing volleyball since the fourth grade. I went to a Catholic grade school—the Immaculate Heart of Mary. My mom actually coached me for the first two years, and she had no idea what she was doing. She had no idea that there were timeouts. Thank God, she [has since] retired her coaching cap. 

What made you want to start playing?

I have always been really athletic. As a kid, I played every sport and volleyball was one sport to check off the list. I [also] played basketball, soccer, I actually bowled for a while. I got two bowling trophies.

What has it been like for you playing on a co-ed team? 

It’s definitely tons of fun. I have always played on all-girls teams, and I have always respected male volleyball players. It’s definitely going to be difficult combining people who have zero experience and people who have played in college before [and] trying to morph that [mix of people] into one or two teams is difficult in-and-of itself. 

Would you like to see Columbia pursue creating official sports teams?

They should stick with what they have now. What makes Columbia so unique is [that it has] no official collegiate sports teams. That is also what makes the volleyball team so special. It is this group of people who want to come together at an arts college and play and are able to do that.

Who are your biggest influences?

Tina Fey is number 1–12. A lot of female writers like Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Lena Dunham [influenced me as well]. I worship [Saturday Night Live]. Nasim Pedrad was my favorite. There’s really a billion, but you don’t have room for all of the [professional] influences in my life.

Why did you change your major from theatre to television?

I was watching “30 Rock” and Tina [Fey] created the show and she wrote a lot [of the material] for it, and I said, “I want to do that.” I want to be the person who creates the words instead of primarily acting it out. It was a show that showed me I can be a writer as well as an artist.