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NAIA Breakout
Academic Support Programs Across the Country
(Monday, June 10, 10:15 - 11:45 a.m.)



Eric Forseth:

My name is Eric Forseth and I'm the athletic director at Northwest Nazarene College and I'm in charge of the workshops. Our topic today is "Academic Support Programs Across the Country." I'll introduce all of our speakers, Pam Hennessey from Hudson College; Patsy Livingston from Point Loma Nazarene College; and Jonathon Seamon from Lipscomb University. Our last speaker will be Brent Wellman from Palm Beach Atlantic College. They have prepared some unique topical areas in academic support programs. You'll see a wide variety here. I want you to be able to ask questions anytime during their presentations or afterwards.

Our first speaker is Pam and I'll pass out her handouts.

Pam Hennessey:

I would like to thank Eric for putting me on this committee. We're going to talk about academic support systems for our student-athletes. I'm sure a lot of what you hear will be things that you do in your own institutions, but we're going to share with you some of the ideas that we do. In my particular institution, we've been dealing with academic support systems for a while and certain things have worked and certain things haven't. The handout that I've given you summarizes the things that we've done. If you follow down the list, we have done study halls and we will continue to do them. We find them to be pretty effective. We have had study halls established with set times, set places and we've had coaches monitoring them. We've also tried a little bit with study halls monitored by student-athletes. These student-athletes would be on the Dean's List, academically superior students. We've tried study hall tables in the library where we have designated certain places for students to sit with an upper class person in charge of that group. Sometimes we divide them into upperclassmen with under class students. Sometimes they are arranged according to academic disciplines. We have also tried a little bit with study partners, where we pair, again, an academic student with an under class student.

We have had regularly scheduled academic meetings. For my coaching staff, this seems to be the most effective tool that we employ. We schedule those regularly scheduled academic meetings once a week. Sometimes, when we get into seasons, we have to back that off a little bit because of the commitment of games, etc. Then, we may go biweekly. We take the upper class good academicians and perhaps schedule them every other week, but keep the people who are having academic difficulty on the weekly arrangement.

We found that, before we started this process, we had to take a look at the demographics at our own institution. We had to take a look at the students we were bringing in. We looked at the grade point average and the things that looked typical for the students in terms of SATs or academic programs they were in. We then tried to design a program that would fit. I would suspect that a lot of our institutions would be the same, so some of the programs we would use would, consequently, work in all institutions.

Before I came to this conference, I had an opportunity to sit with my own coaching staff, once again, to review our offerings in terms of academic support. They overwhelmingly told me that these individual academic meetings were the best thing they could do for the student-athlete. Not only is it good academically, it also helps with the general mentoring process. You get to know the individual student, you get some feedback, you get a relationship established with them and, particularly, early on with the freshmen, this is very crucial.

Some of the research would suggest to us, in terms of retention and certainly the academic side, is one we have to look at strongly, that if a person is going to leave an institution, they will make a decision to do so within the first six weeks of their college experience. So, certainly, if you get something established on the academic support line, it would help.

We assign our kids to come in once a week to sit down and spend about 10 or 15 minutes. We identify, using the form I've passed out, some information on the student. The very first week that the student is on our campus, every student, will meet with their coach. They will bring to that meeting a copy of their class schedule. That schedule would be identified on this form and would set up what they have for classes, when they meet, the time and the professor that is responsible for that class. Our institutional size is about 1,000, so we pretty much know each other. We can track these easily. We keep a running information on what grade point averages are like and we enter that on the sheet.

After we've entered the first week of their responsibilities academically, including their tasks, major assignments with a due date, we will enter in some results from those tests. We will be able to track it. If we determine there is some problem with grades, we will suggest strongly, as coaches, that the student get some extra tutorial service and help. We have some tutorial help available on our campus. What happens is with a person who is not successful academically, they tend to not know where to go to get help. At the time they catch up with that, it's too late. If we can be in this process, we can help a little bit with that process in saving that student.

Attendance is also pretty important. When we're on the road, as many of us are, our kids sometimes miss classes. At my institution, we have a mandatory attendance policy which means you only get so many cuts. So, obviously, what we do on the academic side, is to encourage people not to use cuts just to sleep in and some of the other things other students do, but to save those and use them for game purposes.

It also gives us a chance to get back and follow up. We do ask our coaches to meet with the professors of our student-athletes. We find that this builds good academic support for us in terms of athletics, not to put the pressure on the academic side, but just to establish a relationship that indicates that we really do care about, first and foremost, academic side.

This kind of commitment will take some time. We know that for our coaches to sit with our student-athletes 10 to 15 minutes a week is a commitment, but we certainly you have gained tremendous results. We've gotten better grade point averages. We have less problems with eligibility and, certainly, it helps with retention. As far as we are concerned, we put a lot of demands on our student-athletes. We want to help them be successful. We find that by doing these little added things that we can do, it really has a good impact on them. We are very comfortable about this.

I can remember back when we did not have academic support systems for student-athletes and I think it certainly has made a difference in terms of their performance. The mentoring process is so important. I served on a panel with some college presidents and one of the things the college presidents said to the panel, which was made up of athletic directors, was what do you want us to hear from you in terms of a message from athletics to the president. One thing that came out was that the presidents understand that one of the most important things that a coaching staff does is the mentoring of students. They are probably the best mentors you have on the college campus. Academic mentoring is part of that process. Thank you.

Patsy Livingston:

Thank you. I'm presenting today by using my hat, one of my many hats I wear. But, the hat I have on today is the hat of GSAT eligibility chair. I have been working in this capacity for the last couple of years, I'm finding, in many ways, that as eligibility people, they can assist in helping the student-athlete, the coaches and the athletic directors become more knowledgeable of what is important and where they have some areas of problems and how we can identify these early so that we can help them in retaining eligibility and working on the academic side.

I have given you a couple of handouts. The first handout, we'll go through the outline, so you'll have something to write on. For those in charge of eligibility, I consider our purposes that we must do everything we can to assist these students in their academic progress toward graduation and remain eligible while playing sports. Part of this process is identifying problems as early as possible so that steps can me made to remedy them and working for solutions. As you look at the eligibility process, July and August are the times when you are identifying new athletes and looking at transcripts and often, it occurs earlier than this. Transcripts are normally not available for high school students until July 15, so even though you have a seven-semester transcript, you must wait for that final transcript before you have determined the top half of the graduation class, final GPA and, at that point, their last SAT or ACT test.

At this point in time, take a look at the second page of your handout and you will notice what we have identified as PLNC (Point Loma Nazarene College) form. This is different from the transfer player form that is in the NAIA handbook because we have found that not every student is a transfer, but many students have been out of school. We need to identify what they have done from the time they graduated from high school until they have enrolled in your institution. We want them to identify everything they have done from the time they left high-school until they have come to our institutions looking for where they may have enrolled in school and dropped out and say well, the college that I enrolled in said that if I drop out at this point, then it is not on the record, therefore, it doesn't count as a term of attendance. The NAIA rules say that if you have attended any one class, it becomes a term of attendance if you registered for nine units or more. So, in order to help us identify these situations, we have every player fill out one of these forms. We look at this very carefully. We go over it with the student. We have an interview process with every student that is not a first-time freshman, not coming direct from high school, so we can begin to identify potential problems as soon as we can to be able to assist in making that student eligible.

As we look at August and September, we certify for fall. One of the things we do is look at all transfer students' transcripts. Since most of our sports run two semesters except for our fall sports of cross country, volleyball and men's soccer, therefore, for almost all of our transfer students, we need to look at to make sure that they are not only eligible for fall, but also eligible for spring, making sure then that they are enrolled in sufficient courses in the fall to be able to make the eligibility process for spring.

Sometime in November, we have preregistration for the next semester. We find that at the conclusion of preregistration, we can also identify some problems with our athletes if they have not registered for spring, or if they have registered for insufficient units to make the eligibility process. This is another check time when it's important that you identify some potential problems.

We then look at Christmas break, inter-terms and one of the interesting problems that we are running across is, how long are your students eligible after the last day of finals? Fourteen calendar days bring us to December 27. What must you do in order for a student then, normally in basketball, swimming or diving, or wrestling to be eligible to play on the 28th? They must be re-certified. Now, what happens if your institution does not require grades due until January 9th? They still have to be identified as eligible. I'm bringing this to your attention because you, on your campuses, must work with your faculty academic dean, faculty counsel or, whatever process is on your institution, so that grades are due and processed prior to the end of that two-week period so that your athletes can participate. This is something that is very critical. If you, as athletic directors, are scheduling games on the 28th, 29th, 30th or 31st. If you have a tournament scheduled, you must certify that your athletes are eligible for that tournament.

Another problem that occurs at our institution with Christmas on Wednesday, December 25, our offices close on the 23rd. There is nobody on campus that week in any office whatsoever. If you have to recertify, you have to make sure you've looked at the calendar with the people in your institutions that are responsible for the calendar, for getting grades in and processed and getting them accessible so you can recertify your athletes during this time.

Obviously, January and February, as we certify for spring or recertify for fall competition, is a very important time. Hopefully, you can do this before the first day of school so that you can identify those problems.

Again, we look at preregistration for March and April sometime during that time period. We identify students that may need additional units for fall in order to be eligibility for a spring semester, or look at students that have not preregistered for any reason whatsoever. It may be the student has a hold in the business office for not paying their bill, have not made financial arrangements, or it's a student that may have decided they are not sure they want to come back. You can begin to identify those students early while you still have time to work with that student and your coach and to identify some of these concerns and to help the retention rate and eventually the graduation rate within your institution.

Early summer, before I could come to this Convention, we looked at eligibility for all returning athletes, and again, this is critical it is accomplished as early as possible. Unfortunately, at our institution, we had a professor that left the country for several weeks, had not turned his grades in and it was three weeks after the grades were due that we finally got him to turn his grades in. We identified some problems with some of our students. I don't know what the process is at your institution. Hopefully, it's a little bit better than at ours so you can get grades in and processed and identify the potential problems with your student-athletes. Then, you go back to the cycle in the summer of determining eligibility for incoming freshmen, incoming transfer students making sure that is all acceptable and ready to go.

It is a continuous process, but one in which there's never a day off for anybody that works with eligibility. You think you have everything done and a coach says he's found this student that wants to play and he wants to use him. This is particularly true in things like track and field. We have addendums that come through.

Something else the eligibility person can help you with is identifying team GPAs, identifying the scholar-athletes and giving that information back to the athletic director and coaches and assisting in making sure that the campus is aware of the academic status of student-athletes. They can make sure it's publicized, especially when it is good news.

The little green card at the back is something that we have identified for our coaches because we have a wide variety of rules. We have the NAIA rules, the conference rules and our institutional rules. We have made, in a nutshell, something that is available for our coaches so they know what the most stringent rules are. A 2.0 GPA for the NAIA is not necessary until you are competing for your third season of competition. In our conference, a 2.0 GPA must be by the third semester of attendance. At our institution this year, for the first time, you must have a 2.0 GPA by your second semester in order to be a student in good standing at the institution. This is a way we have helped our coaches to keep up with all three sets of rules all on one sheet of paper.

Thank you.

Jonathon Seamon:

There are two handouts. I won't be speaking too much on one of the handouts, but it is the functions and goals of our faculty rep at Lipscomb University. It is prepared by our FAR and it has a lot of the forms that he uses with our coaches. I thought you would like to have those for your information.

We are very fortunate at Lipscomb to have a situation where our faculty rep is a full time member of the faculty, but he is also part of my staff. We pay him a summer salary and so he becomes part of our athletic staff and we have made him feel at home in athletics just like a coach. He has a voice on our athletic committee and is very much involved with our coaching staff. That way, it's not someone who's off in an office that only deals with eligibility. We try to incorporate him into everything we're doing athletically.

The other handout will list some of these key functions, many of them outlined through the NAIA, but also for our ownself at Lipscomb, we want him to represent the interest of our student-athlete in the development of our athletic and academic policies and to maintain the integrity of Lipscomb University along the lines of the NAIA guidelines. Out of that, the FAR and I sat down and we developed some goals. I'll just flash these up, but they are on the handout.

Part of the key thing in these goals, being a Christian university, is that we focus very heavily on that part of developing the student-athlete and the student at our university. That's why we look to Luke 2:52, which deals with Jesus increasing in wisdom, stature and favor and with God and men. With this, we tried to use our faculty rep to work us on the mental, physical and spiritual development that has brought us to this number seven, which is what I'm going to focus most of my comments on. We have a course called University 1101 which was a course developed for incoming freshman to be oriented into college life and the different aspects of being at our university. Out of that, they learn how to use a lot of skills from across avenues to make it academically, socially and physically at the university. We are developing this program for our athletes.

We feel we can take the skills an athlete has and use those same type of skills in developing their academic and social behavior. We are trying to work through that and our faculty athletic rep is working with us in this class. He teaches this class so that gives us an advantage there and we are moving forward with our academic people in developing this. It's important your faculty athletic rep is the key in helping the rest of your university faculty to feel good about athletics and feel good about the athletes. We want this person to be communicating very heavily with the other members of our faculty.

We have established what we call a continuing education program for our athletes, looking at the mental approach where the coaches work with their own type of faculty report sheets, giving the student-athlete time management opportunities, the study halls and the academic counseling. Out of that, we have used this program to also develop our fitness and nutrition education. We've had some problems with eating disorders, not just with female athletes. We have a case with one of our baseball players we've been working with. We also use this for our drug and alcohol education.

The other part that's important on our campus that wouldn't be the same on all campuses is our spiritual development. Out of this, we have our own athletic chapel. We have weekly ongoing Bible studies with our athletes. We have an athletic council service committee that has developed out of this. We try to use these three areas in developing our athletes.

It brings us to what we're trying to develop in the University 1101 course. The way we have it set up is that for the 1996-97 year, we are encouraging all freshmen student-athletes to take this course, and out of that, we will have many sessions for just athletes. By the l997-98 year, we hope to have approval to mandate all of our incoming student-athletes to be in this class as approved by our academic dean and our academic side of the university. We will mix them with all students. It will not just be an athlete class. One of the key things we want is for them to be in a class with non athletes so that everyone can hear and discuss and see the different sides of what it means to not be an athlete and the time constraints you have, along with the pressures of being an athlete. We would have some special breakout sessions just for athletes to help them to develop a little more along that line.

The course is designed to inform students on the who, what, where, when and how about college life. It's also a course that's designed very heavily for retention purposes. You find very quickly in college that keeping students in school is very important and we learn that on the retention side of it, during those first couple of weeks of that freshman year, that if they do not get these questions answered and develop some relationships, whether they're athletes or not athletes, you can lose them. I know you've been involved with your athletes who weren't happy with the university or being there or homesick, all kinds of problems. This course helps to attack those problems, plus it will also help them academically to know how to use their time wisely. Again, that comes back to using their skills. The way they have to work under the pressures of their coach and the time it takes for practice and games. It's very important they learn how to manage their time so they have time for study and the classes and the amount of hours it takes to fulfill the course work they have.

We try to answer these questions, Is the institution living up to the expectations the student had coming there? For the student, am I capable of doing what is expected? Do I fit into this institution? Being an institution like Lipscomb, which is like many of you, we have rules and regulations that are different from a lot of other schools and not everyone can fit in there. Not every athlete can fit in there. So, we have to be very particular and we have to try to work to make these fit within our situation.

Some specific goals we have set forth that we want to accomplish, as I pointed out. We want to use the athletic skills and principles of managing the college life. We think there are a lot of things you learn as an athlete that can help you beyond your days in college and help you manage, not only your college life, but your life beyond that. Just like the coaches want a game plan, we want them to establish a game plan for their days in college, using time management, understanding their roles within the entire student population. This is important. Sometimes, our athletes get pushed aside and they don't mix and mingle with the rest of the student population. They have a special role there. A lot of times, they are role models because they are out on the court, or on the field and very visible. We want them to have that high visibility. We want them to be good role models, but we also want them to be able to walk the halls, walk across the campus. When the students feel like they are a friend of the star basketball player, it can help in all ways. It makes them come to the games, support each other and it would help them help each other.

As you look through the things we have listed in your handout, we are trying to do things that will help our student-athletes to understand there is a lot more to life than just playing their sport. They're going to need a good education, good social skills and they'll want to move on beyond college. Finally, the little line is with the faculty athletic rep we have at Lipscomb, eligibility is important, but I want him to understand that his main job is not the eligibility forms, even though that's very important and we want it done and we want eligible students. But, eligibility is not our most important goal. The most important goal we have is working with these students to help them in college. With that, the eligibility is just going to become a byproduct because they are going to be good students.

One of the things we're proud of at Lipscomb is that our grade point average for our athletes is higher than the average of our student population. It's been that way for about 10 consecutive years. We've worked with that. That was one of the bright spots in our recent 10-year study for the Southern Association of looking at what we have done academically with our students and looking beyond just being an athletic program. We've been proud of our successes on the court, but also very proud of what goes on academically.

We hope this class, as we develop it a little more, within the entire framework of the university will be successful in helping our student-athletes.

Eric Forseth:

Thank you Jonathon. That was good. It's interesting how this is falling together as far as everybody has covered. Brent has a unique presentation and he's using his institution.

Brent Wellman:

One of the first things we like to tell our student-athletes is that we're for them. We're completely for them in the total package. I'm going to go through this rather quickly. We have several areas we cover from academics to the total package of note taking, time management and then we break down to the student development programs. We have a work shift of 45 hours of community service whether you're an athlete or not.

A lot of teams use group projects and go out to the community and work with the younger children to help their skills. It's very good and it's good public relations. We give more than 17,500 hours as an institution a year. It's worked out very well.

The big picture covers the student-athlete, mentally, spiritually, physically. We try to guide them in every direction we can. Attitude is everything and everything is attitude and we try to have some fun with that. We try to have the student body repeat that a couple of times. We want to attack the attitude first because we feel your approach to athletics and academics and anything in life starts with your attitude.

We are a Christian image college and the spiritual emphasis is very important. We have chapel once a week. We want to reach the students and build the students that already know the Lord.

At this time, Mr. Wellman showed slides that he referred to and can't be translated.

Eric Forseth:

If you want a copy of this disk, leave your business card with Brent and he'll get that to you.

Thank you all for coming. Have a good day.