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Double the Honors: Identical Sisters Earn Perfect GPA

Double the Honors: Identical Sisters Earn Perfect GPA

Elizabeth and Sarah Cermak pose together holding a graduation cap on OU's South Oval

When identical sisters Elizabeth and Sarah Cermak graduate in December from the University of Oklahoma, they will both walk away with 4.0 grade-point averages – thanks in part, they say, to the self-discipline instilled in them by their parents and 15 years of rigorous ballet education.

Elizabeth and Sarah explained that their parents have always encouraged them – as well as their brother, John (they are actually triplets, but he attends Baylor University and is majoring in biology on a pre-med track) – to pursue every opportunity to learn and have been incredibly supportive throughout their education.

“We think that our relationship has helped us to succeed academically in small part due to a sense of sibling rivalry, but primarily because we want to see each other succeed,” Sarah said. “From proofreading each other’s papers to studying together for tests, we have always been supportive of one another in our academic endeavors.”

The 22-year-olds, whose parents, Joel and Laurie Cermak, live in Cypress, Texas, discovered OU through its noted ballet program and, after touring the campus, say they simply “fell in love” with it.

“We love that OU feels like a small school despite its relatively large size, and we have greatly enjoyed our experience at the university and the many campus activities and organizations we have had the opportunity to be involved in,” Elizabeth shared.

After learning all their options for areas of study, neither ended up pursuing the ballet degree that had first attracted them to OU. Elizabeth is earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Price College of Business, with minors in management information systems and dance history. Sarah is earning a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication with minors in dance history and art.

During the start of their academic career, the sisters enrolled in a few dance classes together, which they said was reassuring for them because they did not know many people here.

“The instructors and students all thought it was very interesting that we had both chosen OU and were taking similar courses,” Elizabeth said.

The sisters resisted any urge to pull a “Parent Trap” stunt by pretending to be the other twin, however.

“As for pretending to be each other, we get this question all the time, but we haven’t tried to do so since elementary school,” Sarah said. “We think it’s funny when people ask us if we do because we don’t think we look very much alike, although most people disagree and have a hard time telling us apart.”

“While it is very difficult to choose between the many courses I have enjoyed at OU, I think my favorite class so far would be either Ballet Technique II or Intermediate Accounting I,” said Elizabeth. “I enjoyed taking class with and learning from the incredible faculty and staff of the OU School of Dance because it allowed me to continue to pursue my passion and express myself even after the transition from high school to college. Additionally, I fell in love with accounting after taking the first prerequisite accounting course, and Intermediate Accounting I only increased my interest in accounting by providing a more detailed look at some of the topics covered in the introductory course.”

For Sarah, the Advertising Campaigns Capstone course, which she is taking this semester, takes first place.

“The course has been a wonderful opportunity to culminate all the skills I have learned throughout my time at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication and gain hands-on experience developing a strategic advertising campaign for a client with a team of other students,” she said. “I have also greatly enjoyed the opportunity to learn from Professor Debbie Yount, who has been an incredible resource throughout the course and provided our team with valuable guidance throughout the campaign-planning process from her many years of professional experience within the advertising industry.”

Outside the Classroom

The sisters maintained a strong presence across campus outside the classroom, as well. Both have been heavily involved in numerous organizations, ranging from their respective areas of study to service opportunities to their sororities.

They also recognized the benefit of gaining real-world work experience while in college.

Elizabeth took advantage of an opportunity to work at a small accounting firm in Houston the summer after her sophomore year.

“It was an excellent learning experience and helped me to apply what I had learned during my time in the Price College of Business as well as to develop important career and life skills that I am sure will serve me well in the future,” she said.

Sarah worked as the social media coordinator for the OU School of Dance from April 2019 to August 2020. In this role, she managed the school’s social media profiles; took photos during classes, rehearsals and performances; wrote and coordinated news releases; and created graphic design work for various events and marketing materials.

“This position was a wonderful opportunity to stay connected to my passion for dance while gaining relevant experience within my field of study,” she said. Sarah continues to garner career experience; since May, she has held a graphic design internship at Wedlink Media, an umbrella brand for a collective of luxury bridal publications and online/social resources.

Post-Graduation Plans

Elizabeth is enrolled in an accelerated five-year Master of Accountancy program, so she will continue her graduate education at OU for the next two semesters.

“I have had the opportunity to complete some of my undergraduate and graduate coursework concurrently, and I will complete the requirements for my bachelor’s degree this December and the requirements for my master’s degree next December,” she said. “After my internship with KPMG this upcoming summer, I hope to search for a full-time opportunity in public accounting with a focus in taxation and obtain my CPA license.”

Sarah is looking for a full-time position as a graphic designer or art director within the marketing and communications industry.

“Identical” Doesn’t Mean “the Same”

Although Elizabeth and Sarah are identical siblings who share many personality traits, each brings her own unique skill set to academics and life.

“We see each other as more similar than dissimilar because we are identical twins and have done most activities together for the majority of our life,” they said. “We were in many of the same classes from elementary school through high school and participated in the same extracurricular activities. However, we still believe that we are truly individuals, and our time at OU has helped us each to develop into our own people.”

Both consider their strong work ethic and attention to detail among the characteristics they have in common. While Elizabeth describes herself as more introverted and Sarah has a creative streak, they both love to dance.

Elizabeth and Sarah Cermak pose wearing bronze medallions in front of a large OU Seal backdrop

Elizabeth and Sarah Cermak sport their bronze medallions of the OU seal, which they received to commemorate their 4.0 grade-point average.

Parting Words

In recognition of their perfect grade-point averages, the sisters were among the 60 OU students honored last month for earning a 4.0 GPA in their undergraduate careers.

As they approach the finish line of their senior year, they offered a few words of wisdom to their fellow OU students.

“Your four years of college will fly by so quickly, so soak up every minute of them and take advantage of all the incredible opportunities and resources you have at your fingertips here at OU,” Sarah said. “Get to know your professors and peers; get involved in campus and community organizations; most importantly, use your collegiate years to explore new things and discover what you’re passionate about. In the end, that passion will be what motivates and guides you toward success in all that you do throughout your life.”

And as for the importance of grades, what would these straight-A students say?

“While a perfect GPA is a huge accomplishment and something I have worked very hard to maintain, I would like younger students to know that GPA is certainly not the be-all and end-all of a college education,” Elizabeth said. “What I have learned, how I have grown as a person and the connections I have made during my time at OU are far more important than any grade that I have received. It is completely understandable to be stressed about grades, assignments and exams. However, I hope that those who come after me will take away the fact that your grades do not define who you are as a person. College will be one of the most formative periods of your life, so it is important to take full advantage of the many opportunities for personal growth it will provide.”


By Jerri Culpepper

Article Published:  Wednesday, December 2, 2020