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HANOVER, N.H.— Many student-athletes at Dartmouth have managed to successfully perform at a high level in the classroom and within their respective sport, but there are a few standouts that have been able to excel in both spheres exceptionally well. Jessica Kittelberger, a member of the women’s golf team and Class of 2018, is amongst the individuals who have done so.

In the course of Kittelberger’s four years at Dartmouth, she has maintained a 3.85 GPA as a double major. She has finished in the top 25 at several competitions and on one occasion has been the top Dartmouth finisher at the Ivy League Championships. She has been recognized for her achievement in academic and athletic endeavors by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association, which bestowed upon her the honor of an All-American Scholar every year at Dartmouth. She has also been recognized at Dartmouth as a finalist for the Dartmouth Athletic Department’s Class of 1948 Scholar-Athlete Award and named a Rufus Choate Scholar. 

Kittelberger owes her success to what Dartmouth has offered her over the course of her four years. Kittelberger was born and raised in North Carolina and was looking forward to having new experiences in a different setting. 

“I wanted to explore a new part of the country, get out of the South and explore some great schools in the Northeast.”


Her brother Kyle Kittelberger ’16 attended Dartmouth and showed her around the campus. She saw an importance in competing in golf collegiately, especially since she was improving and got in touch with many coaches. Alex Kirk, 1954 Carolyn A. Pretzel Head Coach of Women’s Golf at Dartmouth, expressed a strong interest in Kittelberger and she chose Dartmouth because of the opportunities that spanned beyond her athletics. 

“Dartmouth allowed me to study abroad in my off-term [winter term for golfers] and the other colleges I was interested in did not support that. It all offered a lot of flexibility within academics,” said Kittelberger.

The flexibility with the D-Plan and the academics department allowed Kittelberger to become a double major in anthropology and environmental studies, two disciplines in which she is very passionate. 

“The professors here make you want to learn especially in these departments. In the study-abroad programs that I participated in they [professors,] were so enthusiastic and passionate about what they learned from these programs. They have encouraged me to want to learn more.”

After graduation, Jessica intends to take a gap year and work before applying to law school and studying environmental law.

Kittelberger expresses deep admiration for her coach and her team and is very serious when it comes to challenging herself and improving in her sport.

“Going into my sophomore year I started training really hard with Roland Rivera, a physical therapist and strength trainer from home, and actually gained 40 yards in my golf swing due to his dedication in working with me. I was able to be more competitive and play in every tournament. Coach Kirk only wants the best for me, whether that be playing the best that I can on the golf course or pursuing my dreams to be an environmental lawyer. ”

Much of Kittelberger’s success resulted from overcoming her challenges with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). She was diagnosed with RA at the age of seven and has battled with its effects since. She gives all of her current pain-free lifestyle and improved mobility to rheumatologist Dr. Joseph Shanahan and her golf instructor Eric Alpenfels, who has supported her and worked with her RA limitations to play golf competitively. 

“My freshman year at Dartmouth was the first-time I was pain-free because I had changed my medication. I have always had an inner drive because I have had to try a little bit harder to keep up with everyone around me. Finally being able to play golf and play pain-free allowed me to try and make up for lost time.”

Prior to coming to Dartmouth, she hosted several fundraisers for the hospital and raised over $30,000 to thank those who supported her and also give back to those in need. 

From her battle with RA, Kittelberger can be described to be one who encompasses both strength and resilience. She is also very enthusiastic and has a strong penchant for discovery. Her classmate and teammate Isabelle Kane ’18 has much to say about her eagerness to learn.

“She always brings something different to the table. She has great character and is very dependable. I respect her as both my teammate and friend for everything she does.” said Kane.

Coach Kirk also shows deep admiration for what Kittelberger has been able to contribute to the team and how he sees her as an outstanding student-athlete.

“Her golf is very good but to her credit, she has been able to balance everything and improve her performance every year, which is not something you always see. She has the capability and skill set to finish very high at Ivies this year. I think she is in good position to finish her career with her best Ivy finish to date.” said Coach Kirk. 

It is clear Kittelberger has shown great achievement in her academic and athletic endeavors and has high hopes for the future. But with the tournament season ahead, she has one thing on her mind as she heads into her last golf season at Dartmouth.

“I want to play my best golf, qualify for the Ivy League Championship and earn All-Ivy. I just want to take it one shot at a time and represent Dartmouth one last time.”