The K-State 2025 Strategic Action Plan for Athletics (pdf) captures the university's goal to "strengthen the interconnectivity between intercollegiate athletics and the campus community, prepare our student-athletes for success in school, in sport and after graduation, and benefit our university, community, and state." As K-State strives to be a recognized leader integrating academics and athletics with a national reputation for a world-class student-athlete experience, the university has provided athletes with enhanced learning environments and many services that assist, direct, support and promote academic achievement and growth.
The Academic Learning Center, located on the 4th floor of Hale Library, is a space for athletes to leave behind their jerseys and numbers and fully embrace the identity of a college student. One-on-one tutoring, printing services, and access to an English lab and computer lab are provided to student athletes to help them in their academic endeavors. “The athlete's schedules are often set up in a way that allows them to come to the center and study for a couple of hours in between each of their classes,” said Liane Fowler, Assistant Director and Academic Counselor for Men's Basketball and Tennis.
Alexandra Pimentel, a graduate student in Sociology, is currently tutoring five student-athletes this semester. “Professionally, the most valuable aspect of my job as a tutor is being able to see how students begin to conceptualize and understand course material when studying outside of the classroom and to see how I can help them with this process.” Tutoring students one on one has allowed Pimental to become more skilled at explaining concepts and conveying information about the subjects that she studies in general. “Working with such a diverse group of students, who come not just from all parts of the United States, but from all over the world, has given me the opportunity to hear from so many different perspectives on these topics. After talking with so many students about the concepts that they’re covering in their classes, I find myself able to see far more angles to approaching these issues than I could before,” Pimentel said.
The Academic Learning Center is a level playing field for students. “It doesn’t concern me what sport you play, we are focused primarily on your academic performance,” said Jana Buehler, director of Specialized Learning. The academic services help to keep athletes eligible and able to compete and also provides them with life skills that prepare them to excel in their chosen careers, in the community, and in their personal lives once they earn their diploma.
Former K-State Football player Marquel Bryant received his degree in social sciences from Kansas State University in 2015.
Dean Wade, sophomore in business administration and K-State basketball player, spends a few hours in the Academic Learning Center each day and has seen his grades improve with the help of his tutor and academic support received by the faculty. “We are busy from 1-8 p.m. with basketball, and it doesn’t give us much extra time to study. The best way for us to study is by coming in the mornings and get everything done and out of the way before practice. I don’t necessarily like to ask for help, and when I get assigned a tutor, they are right there to help me,” Wade said.
Chloe Weir, sophomore in open option and K-State golfer, frequently travels with the team and appreciates the time spent with her tutor each week as she works to make up the work missed in class. “It’s nice to have structured time to focus on school,” Weir said.
“The student-athletes are a unique population. They are pulled in so many different directions. At least we know that from 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. they can just relax and think about their academics,” Fowler said.
Xavier Sneed, a freshman in business administration and K-State basketball player, is one of the many students that currently have a 4.0 GPA and continue to excel in their academics while balancing the responsibilities of being an athlete.
The partnership between the library and the Athletic Department is integral in the academic support provided to the student-athletes and gives students the opportunity to engage with faculty, staff, and other students in an environment focused solely on learning. “I don’t know any other school that has their athletic academic services located in the library. If our students can get to campus for class, then they can get to us for tutoring and study time,” Fowler said.
The atmosphere within the Academic Learning Center reflects the family-like ambiance that is fostered around campus and students have used the space to build camaraderie. “It’s surprising to see how many of them go to each other’s events and games to support them because they’ve seen them in the tutoring center,” Buehler said. Over the last few years, Fowler and Buehler have noticed students coming up to the center even when they aren’t assigned to a tutoring session. While the Academic Learning Center is merely designed to provide a space for academic counseling and support, it has also grown to be a safe zone for the students, where they can separate themselves from the pressure that comes with being an athlete.
While the job description of the academic counselors and learning specialists include a wide array of responsibilities including the supervision of tutorial services, administration of the team’s study sessions and monitoring the academic progress of the students, they have also become emotionally invested in the lives of the students that they counsel. “We love our job. If we have to go in on a Sunday night to help a student, then we go in on Sunday night. The hours put into this job never seem like work. If a student doesn’t do well on a test, we often find ourselves going back home and researching different teaching methods and ways that we can help them better understand the material,” said Fowler.
The Vanier Football Complex Student Athlete Enhancement Center (SAEC) is also a facility designed to provide rich educational development. The SAEC offers a full-service computer lab, free printing and quiet rooms that accommodate for group and individual studying.
The comprehensive academic support that surrounds the students is displayed through achievements and excellence in the classroom. For six consecutive years, K-State has been recognized for having all athletic teams meet and exceed the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate multi-year standard, a team-based metric that measures eligibility, retention, and graduation of student-athletes competing on every Division 1 sports team. K-State also had a total of seven student-athletes receive the Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award, which is the Big 12 Conference’s highest academic honor.
This video highlights some of the academic resources provided by Student-Athlete Services through the Academic Learning Center in Hale Library and the Student-Athlete Enhancement Center at the Vanier Football Complex.
“As we continue to push toward the University’s K-State 2025 goal of ranking among America’s top 50 public research universities, the commitment, our 450-plus student-athletes, coaches, and staff and the hundreds of thousands of loyal K-Staters world-wide has already had a positive influence and impact on the national reputation of Kansas State University and the Manhattan community,” said athletic director John Currie in September’s newsletter.