February 13, 2002

How We Compare

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Christine Wlosinski, Cornell’s Director of Athletic Student Services, takes great pride in emphasizing the point that student-athletes at Cornell are no different than any other student.

“These kids are just like regular students,” she said. “[They] need to manage their time appropriately.”

It is her job to ensure that this actually occurs.

Wlosinski’s office is the first of its kind in the Ivy League, a separate service within the Athletic Department whose sole purpose is to “assist student athletes in balancing their athletic and academic demands.” Contrary to common belief, Wlosinski does not provide full-scale advising; she just makes advice easier to come by for Cornell’s 1,000 student-athletes.

“This office basically acts as a liaison to other services that are already available on campus. That’s the key thing,” she emphasizes.

In this capacity, she is no different than her colleagues at other Ivy schools. Wlosinski is unique in some sense though, as her office is just one of two like it in the Ancient Eight. The University of Pennsylvania has a similar program run through the office of Rosemarie Burnett, Penn’s Assistant Director of Athletics for Student Services. While only two Ivies offer a dedicated student services office, all others do offer some sort of assistance while keeping in mind the Ivy League philosophy that athletes are students first and play only for the love of their sport.

Sheri Norred is the Assistant Athletic Director in charge of compliance at Harvard University. While emphasizing that Harvard views its intercollegiate athletes as students first, Norred explained that a priority of the Harvard Athletic Department is to try to give its athletes a taste of life outside of college.

“We have annual career panel nights,” she said, “in which we have six to eight alumni currently working throughout the nation come and speak about their careers [and what happens after college].”

Like most colleges and universities throughout the nation, Harvard brings in guest speakers on several occasions throughout the year to address the university’s athletes on topics such as alcohol and nutrition.

A similar program is popular at Princeton University, where Professor Richard J. Light of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of the book Making the Most Out of College spoke this year to Princeton’s student-athletes. According to Assistant Director of Athletics Erin McDermott, these guest speakers are the extent of the support offered to Princeton student-athletes.

“There’s nothing special from the Athletic Department,” McDermott explained. “Athletes go through the same channels as other students to obtain support.”

Princeton, however, unlike most of its Ivy brethren, does not even make the use of laptops available to athletes on road trips. Laptop loan programs are important components of the support offered in most colleges (including the seven other Ancient Eight schools) throughout the country.

Though Cornell’s computer loan program has been less utilized of late, this program it remains highly popular.

“Although most athletes have their own, I have laptops going out every weekend,” commented Wlosinski.

Yale University’s laptop loan program is similarly often utilized. According to Associate Athletic Director for Varsity Sports Colleen Lim, many athletes take advantage of the availability of this program each week.

Like Wlosinski, Lim works with Yale’s regular channels of student support to coordinate assistance for athletes.

“We work very closely with residential college deans for questions and concerns that [student-athletes have,]” Lim explained.

In addition to this role, Lim’s office has also coordinated seminars on note taking, study habits, and the like for athletes. These seminars are no different than those available to Yale’s general student population, Lim points out, but her role often involves making athletes aware of their existence.

The most significant difference between the services available through Wlosinski’s office and those offered around the Ivy League is tutoring.

While at most Ancient Eight institutions, athletes rely on the support available to the general student population, at Cornell, this is often not possible.

“Math tutors are only available in the 4:00pm to 7:00pm time slot and that doesn’t fit in to most athlete’s schedules,” explained Wlosinski.

To fill this gap, the Athletic Department employs 70 tutors who work exclusively with athletes.

“[Tutors are] available outside practice hours, Lim commented on Yale’s system.

Archived article by Owen Bochner