ITTA BENA — The NCAA Accelerating Academic Success Program (AASP) has awarded a $900,000 grant over three years to Mississippi Valley State University to support its efforts in building an academic support program for athletes.
The award comes as part of the NCAA’s effort to provide institutions without programs specifically geared toward academic success for student-athletes with the resources to create these programs.
“The administration and faculty embrace the idea that athletes are students first. Their primary purpose for attending MVSU is to earn an undergraduate degree,” said Dr. William B. Bynum, MVSU President. “The university’s vision focuses on student centeredness. The ‘One Goal’ aspect of the vision is ‘Student Success.’ MVSU will increase enrollment, retain and graduate students while developing them holistically for career advancement. This commitment includes our student-athletes who have been underserved for the sacrifices they make to be an athlete, and this NCAA grant will significantly enhance Valley’s ability to improve ‘Student Success’ within our athletic program.”
The Student-Athlete Academic Services program contributes to an ongoing effort to improve student-athlete success at Valley while improving the university’s academic progress rate (APR) as well as its retention and graduation rates.
“What this grant allows us to do is to develop a full service academic support program for our student athletes,” said Director of Athletics Dianthia Ford-Kee. “Our students will have an enhanced computer lab with a new tutorial lab that will be housed in the Academic Skills Building, located near the James H. White Library.”
The program, headed by Sherese Parker, director of student athlete academic services, will have three academic counselors and a learning specialist who will also serve as the life skills coordinator. The goal is to work with student-athletes one-on-one to assist them with developing an academic success plan that will allow them to graduate within 4-5 years while also balancing the demands of being a student-athlete.
“We’re looking to these individuals to not only be academic coaches but success coaches,” Ford-Kee said. The academic counselors, in conjunction with their department’s academic advisors, will advise students on their course load, helping them understand what courses to take in order to make progress in their majors while also considering all of their non-academic commitments. That way, student-athletes don’t take more courses than they can handle while their sport is in season. Counselors will also guide and direct them to be involved in co-curricular activities that will include community services, career development and self-improvement.
In addition to counselors, Student-Athlete Academic Services will also have tutors whose job is to help students improve their study skills and be more efficient with their time. They will work on skills that can be broadly applied, such as note taking, as well as focus on content-specific areas to assist the students.