In its ongoing commitment to student success, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Academic Support Programs launched an initiative to provide support to student-athletes, ensuring they receive coaching off the field and court to enhance their academic experience. Wrapping up its third year, the program recently reached a milestone, expanding from working with one athletic team to offering support to all teams.
Haley Rusk, student success and retention coordinator with Academic Support Programs, spearheaded the program in fall 2020.
“I always had a special interest in student-athletes,” said Rusk, a former student-athlete herself, who played soccer at a Division III school. “I played for two of my undergraduate years, and it wasn’t a great experience for me. It made me not like my sport, and I ended up transferring. So, I have a soft spot for student-athletes. Being one is a privilege, but there is a lot that comes with it.”
Rusk connected with Chad Harris, head baseball coach, and they worked out a plan to roll out a student-athlete success coaching initiative. It began with a small group of members of the Pioneers’ baseball team. They found that the student-athletes appreciated the extra avenue of support, with more than half of them returning for multiple appointments. Over the next three years, Academic Support Programs extended the initiative to more teams, eventually offering the coaching to all athletic teams this year. In the fall 2022 semester, they served a record 133 student-athletes.
"My goal for this program has always been to give the student the feeling of knowing someone else on campus cares about them,” said Harris. “We want them to know they aren't alone. Sometimes, just knowing you have someone else in your corner can be the difference maker for a student reaching their goals or not. I really appreciate Haley's determination to continue this program each year. She got it all started and many student-athletes have received the support they needed to take the next step in their academic careers. "
Rusk said the academic coaches work with student-athletes on various academic success skills – especially those that are particularly needed for a student-athlete’s busy schedule.
“A lot of it is founded in time management, preparation and prioritization,” said Rusk. “We know student-athletes have a lot of things on their plates, so it starts with the basics. But, depending on the academic coach and the student, it develops from there. I’ve had students telling me things about roommates or asking advice for talking with a professor or even a coach.”
“Academic coaching has been a big help throughout my college career so far,” said Slate Higa, a freshman from Honolulu, Hawaii, and member of the baseball team. “As a student-athlete, it has paved the way for me to stay more organized and helps me manage my time better.”
Rusk said she has enjoyed collaborating with the athletics department for this initiative and building a partnership that reaffirms everyone’s commitment to students.
“The athletics department has been so open and willing and easy to work with throughout this,” said Rusk. “Everyone on this campus prioritizes student success first, and we’re all keeping it that way.”