Balancing school and athletics can be a rigorous task for the university’s student athletes, but Academic Support Services aims to help athletes achieve success both on and off the court.
Full-time staff members Kristina Therriault and Liz Smith oversee the academic services of all SIU student athletes, and they ensure each student has every opportunity to reach their academic goals with graduate assistants’ help.
Athletes attend weekly meetings with academic services to plan their schedules. They also have access to student tutors and the study tables at the Troutt-Wittmann Center.
“It’s a check-up, really, just to see where they are at and what they’ve got going on,” graduate assistant Connor James said. “We do some goal-assessment stuff, where we write out some weekly goals and see if they can accomplish them. We communicate that to the coaches if we are having issues or if they are struggling.”
Freshmen and transfer students are required to attend the study tables for six hours a week, but the athletes are not forced to attend if they hold a 3.0 GPA after two semesters. Even so, the majority of athletes use the facilities on a regular basis, and more than half use a student tutor’s help, Smith said.
“It’s really meant to be your one-stop shop for everything,” she said. “We have strength-training across the hall. All the coaches are here so it must have made sense to have the academics in the same spot, too. It’s an easy place for students to come study and not have to go all the way to the library.”
The emphasis on academics holds true to a standard that has been in place for years, Smith said.
“Generally, the athletes have always had a higher GPA than the regular student body,” she said. “We’ve always had a standard to hold up. Christina has been here for 18 years so she has kind of built this program from the ground up. Academics should be a focus.”
Austin Pucylowski, a junior studying biological science who also serves as a punter on the Saluki football team, said academic services has been a major help in maintaining a good GPA throughout his time at SIU.
“It’s nice to have something that’s only offered for student athletes,” he said. “It’s been a real help and it shows that there is a good emphasis on academics here. My head coach (Dale Lennon) is a big stickler about grades and is always telling our players to get their study hours in, so everyone is on board. When I got here, the people were so friendly and helpful. You could tell that they really cared and wanted us to succeed.”
James, a Saluki football team member from 2007-11, said he didn’t realize how much academic services cared for the student athletes until he started working there after he graduated last year.
“You definitely never understand what all goes on here,” he said. “As a student-athlete you don’t necessarily realize (that we have so much to offer here). You are always looking for your own help. It’s our job as advisers to try to assist them in their needs as soon as we can. Being in this position now, I am much more appreciative.”