Fencing coach Nikki Franke helps students on and off the pitch.
The legend of fencing coach Nikki Franke extends well beyond the pitch.
In her dual role as director of fencing and an associate professor in the Department of Public Health, Franke has not only led a perennial Top 10 fencing team each year, but also has a tremendous effect on students’ lives everyday at the university she has dedicated herself to for 40 years.
After finishing an illustrious fencing career of her own, Franke completed the doctoral program in public health from Temple in 1988.
“I’m an associate professor in the public health department, which is in the College of Health Professions, I supervise our senior leadership program as well as teaching a junior level course,” Franke said. “Doing this allows me to work primarily with undergraduates finding them internships.”
Franke spends her days juggling coaching one of the top women’s fencing programs in the nation, finding internships for students and teaching classes.
“I help students find internships involving anything with public health, from the Department of Health, to some of the hospitals as well as some voluntary agencies such as the Heart Association, Cancer Society and even Fox Chase Cancer center to do research,” Franke said. “This allows the students to be seen by a wide variety of people and potential employers.”
Franke teaches a junior level professional seminar class that goes hand-in-hand with what she does with students seeking internships. The class prepares students for the job market and teaches them how to use internships to take the next step.
“The class is called professional seminar, it’s a class that prepares them for their internships,” Franke said. “It teaches them professionalism and the things they need to be able to do and understand before they go out for their internships.”
Franke is passionate about what she is doing for students and the community. She said this area is like home to her, so anything that she can do within her power to help it, she will try to accomplish.
“I have been very fortunate to be here at [Temple], I appreciate the support that I have received from both the Department of Health as well as the athletic department,” Franke said. “This is why we do what we do though, with the internships we are able to utilize our students not only for what they do for the university but for the Philadelphia community alike.”
Franke said that coaching any collegiate team takes a year-long effort, and said one cannot succeed in college athletics if they don’t put in the work that needs to be done when no one is watching.
But Franke and her team still try to find time to give something back to the community.
“It’s difficult because our season is so long, we go from the fall all the way to the spring, if we had a shorter season we would definitely do more with the community but we try to do some individual things whether it be a toy drive or a collection with the athletic department, because in today’s society any little thing helps and the girls try to do what they can with the little offseason we have,” Franke said.
Whether it was starting and building the women’s fencing team into the nationally-ranked program that it is today, or just helping students with their future, Franke is a true pioneer at Temple. She has competed in the Olympic Games, and has been the head coach of the Owls for 40 years but still manages to keep a modest demeanor and put others first.
Anthony Bellino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.