Centre faculty liaisons bridge the gap between athletics and academics
October 17, 2013 By Mariel Smith
faculty and coaches," says Associate Dean Beth Glazier-McDonald,
"as well as a way to negotiate some of the tensions that may arise
between academic and athletics concerns."
"This is my fourth year being a liaison,"Assistant Professor
of Biology Brian Storz (left) says. "The best part has been
watching the athletes mature emotionally over these four years
and seeing the effects of that maturity on the volleyball court."
Being a student-athlete at Centre is no easy task—it requires juggling a rigorous course-load with a demanding practice and game schedule. Fortunately, the balancing act is getting a little easier, thanks to Centre's faculty liaison program, now in its fourth year.
The program began in the fall of 2010 as a result of discussions with then-Athletic Director Brian Chafin, President John Roush and Professor of Chemistry Joe Workman.
"We had two goals," says Workman. "We wanted to give athletes resources they could approach to help them balance their academic and athletic commitments. We also wanted to strengthen the College community by fostering communication between the faculty and the athletic staff."
With these goals in mind, the working group extended invitations to faculty to become liaisons to specific athletic teams. One such faculty member was Associate Dean and H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion Beth Glazier-McDonald, the current faculty liaison for Centre's field hockey team.
"I understood the position as a way of coming to understand what a student-athlete's life is like," she explains. "What did I know about field hockey? Next to nothing. But that didn't stop me. And I'm still their liaison today. I know a little more about field hockey, and I love it."
Glazier-McDonald stresses that each faculty liaison approaches the position differently; while she prefers to go to athletic practices once per week, other liaisons devote their energy to attending away games or taking athletes out for meals or other celebrations.
Assistant Professor of Biology Brian Storz, the liaison for women's volleyball, has traveled with the team to Birmingham-Southern, Millsaps and Rhodes colleges as well as Transylvania University for away games. He also enjoys watching as many home games as possible, often with his children.
"This is my fourth year being a liaison," he says. "The best part has been watching the athletes mature emotionally over these four years and seeing the effects of that maturity on the volleyball court."
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kerry Paumi, faculty liaison to the women's soccer team, makes a habit of seeing off team members at their bus before they leave for big games. She has also participated in some of the pre-season camp activities.
"I've watched my students on athletic teams work very hard, both in the classroom and also for their coaches on the field," she says. "Being able to support that initiative was important to me and to the students I've worked with."
Importantly, the liaisons serve as another adult who understands some of what a student may be going through, whether on the field or in the classroom. Some students may not feel comfortable going to their academic advisor or coach about an issue, which is where a faculty liaison can be helpful.
"They're really another layer of intervention and mentorship for students to take advantage of," Glazier-McDonald says.
The liaison program has remained informal in its first three years, which has been intentional.
"I want to leave the liaison position as open as possible, so that faculty can get as involved as they want to," Glazier-McDonald says. "It's an especially good way for younger faculty to get plugged in to the Centre community and to engage with students outside the classroom."
As Centre and its athletic teams have grown, more liaisons have been added where necessary. Approximately every three years, Glazier-McDonald hopes to extend an open call to faculty so that current liaisons have a chance to renew their unofficial term of office or step down.
Ultimately, the faculty liaison program is another way that Centre supports its student athletes.
"The liaison program is a way to foster communication between faculty and coaches," says Glazier-McDonald, "as well as a way to negotiate some of the tensions that may arise between academic and athletics concerns."
Centre College, founded in 1819, offers its students a world of opportunities, highlighted by the nation's premier study abroad program and a faculty ranked #5 in the nation for "Best Undergraduate Teaching" at a liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report in 2013. Centre graduates enjoy extraordinary success, with entrance to top graduate and professional schools, prestigious fellowships for further study abroad (Rhodes, Rotary, Fulbright), and rewarding jobs (on average, 97 percent are employed or in advanced study within 10 months of graduation).