How Kourtney Brown balanced a hall of fame athletics career with computer engineering

Woman speaks behind podium.

Kourtney Brown, a former women’s basketball player who graduated with degrees in computer science and engineering and electrical engineering, delivers her UB Athletics Hall of Fame speech in 2022.

“Being a student-athlete made me a better engineer, and vice versa. ”
UB alum Kourtney Brown, senior process integration engineer

By Tom Dinki

When deciding on colleges, Kourtney Brown wanted a competitive Division I basketball program, as well as a respected engineering program that could prepare her for a career after basketball.

She found both with the University at Buffalo.

“I think UB was the perfect balance,” she says.

And Brown pulled off quite the balancing act during her time on campus. She became the women’s basketball team’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks, while earning a dual degree in computer science and engineering and electrical engineering from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She was inducted into the Dr. and Mrs. Edmond J. Gicewicz Family UB Athletics Hall of Fame last year and is now a senior process integration engineer for Samsung in Austin, Texas.

“Being a student-athlete made me a better engineer, and vice versa,” Brown says. “An engineer’s job is to come up with unique ways to solve a problem. It’s the same thing in basketball—only the problem is how to score on, or defend against, the person in front of you.”

Brown would take apart computers in her Ohio childhood home while setting records for the Solon High School girls’ basketball team. She was recruited by several universities, but ultimately chose UB for its strong engineering program.

Just 16% of Division I student-athletes earned a degree in STEM during the 2019-20 academic year, according to the NCAA.

Female basketball player jumping with ball.

Kourtney Brown goes up for a basket during a game against Ohio University at Alumni Arena in 2011.

Student sitting on desk.

Kourtney Brown in the Bell Hall electrical engineering lab during her senior year at UB.

And so freshman year had its challenges. She led the Bulls in blocked shots, but juggled a hectic schedule of games, practices and workouts with lectures, labs and homework.

“And then luckily—or maybe not luckily—I was injured my sophomore year,” Brown says.

Sitting out as a medical redshirt gave her time to focus on academics and build study habits that would make her a successful student once she got back on the court.

She then won Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year and MAC Player of the Year during her junior and senior seasons, respectively, while also being named to the Academic All-MAC Team, given to student-athletes with at least a 3.20 grade-point average.

Brown credits time management. Her days were filled with early morning strength and conditioning workouts, engineering classes and labs during the day, followed by a three-hour practice, and study hall at night.

She also credits SEAS faculty.

“They really took a lot of time to help me—even outside of class and their office hours—to make sure I stayed on top of everything,” she says.

After graduating in 2011, Brown played overseas before returning to UB as an assistant coach. She then earned her master’s degree in electrical and electronic engineering at Louisiana Tech University.

Brown joined Samsung in 2017. There she specializes in computer chip design and verification.

“I think the most rewarding part of my job is working on things that are in our phones and cars and getting to say, ‘Hey, I made that chip, and I made it work well,’” she says.