Services offer academic support for student athletes

Cody Powers, Contributing Writer

Though student athletes find themselves juggling two roles at Eastern, they can get help from a support system called Panther Athletic Support Services.

These services are led by Cindy Almon, the director of athletic academic services.

All of Eastern’s sports teams are divided between Almon, as well as Kyle Callender and Katie Mnichowicz, both assistant directors of academic services.

“We divide up the teams so that athletes have more one-on-one (time) with us,” Almon said. “(Athletes) all have required study hall hours. As newcomers they have between four and six hours a week, regardless of grade point average in high school, test scores or junior college. If they’ve been in school for two years or a four-year school, they still have the study hall hours because of the transition to a new place.”

The athletes’ study hours are logged by Almon, Callender and Mnichowicz and then turned into coaches every Friday.

“At the end of the semester, we’ll adjust their (study hall) hours depending on their grades,” Almon said. “Maybe reduce their hours, eliminate them or increase their hours. It just depends on their first grade report.”

The department also offers free tutoring services five nights a week from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In addition to tutoring and study hours, grade reports are completed on athletes.

“We do them about every five or six weeks using the online computer access system called ‘Grades First,’” Callender said. “Basically it sends out grade requests to professors who have student athletes in their classes.”

Callender said this helps keep track of student athletes and helps determine which ones are marked “at risk.”

“Professors can put in that it’s a lack of attendance, or a lack of good grades on exams, quizzes, homework or papers,” Callender said, “Whatever it may be, we evaluate that and typically bring them into our office to meet with them and evaluate why they are at risk and create a plan of action of how we’re going to go about handling it or adjusting to help them (succeed).”

“We have high expectations,” Almon said. “These are leaders. They’re representing teams and the university.”

Another service that helps athletes stay on top of their grades is an academic calendar created by Almon, Callender or Mnichowicz that has all of the athlete’s assignments on it based upon the syllabi the athletes receive.

“This helps them stay on track, and it helps us when we have our meetings to make sure they’re doing all of the right assignments,” Almon said.

A student athlete’s school schedule is based around that athlete’s practice schedule. They meet with their academic adviser, then come back to Panther Athletic Support Services to make sure their classes are OK with their practice schedule.

“If we think it might be too hefty of a schedule, we just make a suggestion to wait on certain courses until next semester, when you’re not in season,” Almon said.

Almon said she tries to make sure they do not make suggestions about schedules that would prolong an athlete’s time at Eastern.

“We have about 450 student athletes, 18 different teams,” Callender said. “Every team goes about handling their athletes a little differently. For example, with football, (Almon) meets with a significant number of them every week. We probably meet with about 50 to 75 different athletes in total every week.”

Students are constantly going in and out of the academic advisers’ offices, asking them for guidance on different things.

“We have an open door policy,” Almon said.

Almon said they meet with all athletes for an hour in the fall and stress the message to upperclassmen of asking to help the new incoming class and guide them.

“(We ask them to) reach out to them, help them out, because they know what it’s like,” Almon said.

In terms of practice, Callender said there are different windows depending on what season the sport is in.

“Fall sport athletes have to be in an eight-hour window for an extended period of time when they get back (from winter break) in January,” he said. “Until the middle of February when it transitions to a 20-hour window.”

In the fall semester of 2017, 204 student athletes and 15 teams posted a 3.0 or higher GPA.


Cody Powers can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].