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Advancement News

Helping the Student Side of Student-Athletes

Posted Feb. 1, 2010

The alarm goes off before dawn most mornings for Catharine Marosszeky, a fifth-year senior on the Kent State soccer team. That's because 7:45 a.m. classes are the norm for the student-athlete, who must squeeze in a full class schedule before practice begins at 2 p.m. Then it's off to an evening of studying to prepare to start over again the next day. And none of that accounts for games, travel, meals — and sleep.

"It's almost like having a full-time job and being a student," the suburban Toronto native says. "Mentally and physically, it's very taxing."

Academics are important for Marosszeky, who recognizes that opportunities for athletes are limited after college. So she's finished her undergraduate requirements and, because of two injuries that have extended her Kent State career, is moving on to graduate work in speech pathology.

A rigorous emphasis on academics is a core philosophy of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. In the past year, the program set a benchmark for excellence with a department-wide grade-point average of 2.96. And 238 student-athletes — the most ever — had GPAs greater than 3.0.

Educational success can be credited to the student-athletes' strong work ethic, but also the George L. Jenkins Academic Resource Center, which opened in 2005. Located in the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center, the space provides student-athletes study cubicles, computers, printers, and tutoring and advising staff.

"I've been here long enough to remember when we didn't have the Academic Resource Center," Marosszeky says. "We would do student tables, where everyone would be there at the same time. It was very tough to concentrate."

Now, a quiet environment is the rule — along with support that ranges from arranging tutoring to providing an outlet to vent.

And academic support for Kent State student-athletes is getting a major boost, thanks to two Centennial Campaign gifts from Judy Devine, a senior associate athletics director emerita. Before Devine retired in 2000 after 31 years, one of her chief duties was coordinating academic performance of student-athletes. Her latest gifts continue that educational emphasis.

The first endows the annual Athletic Academic Honors Dinner, which recognizes student-athletes with GPAs higher than 3.0. The second is the lead contribution in a planned expansion of the Academic Resource Center.

"I was attracted to the project because it visibly demonstrates the continuing commitment to helping student-athletes succeed in their academic pursuits and earning their degrees," Devine explains. "The 'student' part of the Kent State student-athlete is taken seriously and supported strongly, and it is my desire to remain affiliated with that effort."

Devine's other Centennial Campaign commitment is a $1.2 million bequest that will endow a fund to address long-term needs for the department as they pertain to Title IX and ensuring gender equity. It's the third-largest gift in the Athletics' history.

For Marosszeky, recipient of last year's Judith K. Devine Leadership Award, the academic center expansion promises to raise the bar even higher for student-athletes.

"When you're looking for a school, you're looking for that good academic support," she says. "I can't imagine the Academic Resource Center getting better, but I've seen it change so drastically. These gifts will give us the resources to get our work done in the limited time we have as student-athletes. And that's so important."

This story originally appeared in the spring 2010 Kent State Magazine.