Student-athletes seeing unprecedented academic success

UMD Bulldog student-athletes recorded an all-time high GPA of 3.11 in the 2012-13 academic year. With games, practice and additional obligations consuming much of their time in-season, student-athletes must strike a balance with their schedules in order to succeed academically.

“If you look at all of our high-performing students who have extra-curricular commitments at the highest levels, including theater and music and the sciences, there are so many that have something else,” UMD athletic director Josh Berlo said. “Our athletes happen to have sports. A commitment to being committed is really what it boils down to.”

Sophomore Ashley Lewis, catcher for the UMD softball team, is just one of 409 student-athletes committing her time to athletics and academics.

“The main thing is really having time management and a big thing with it is you have to get your sleep,” Lewis said. “I like my sleep.”

Last spring, the UMD softball team finished 41-13 overall and 19-5 in the NSIC to claim a share of the conference title. Lewis was fourth on the team with a .335 batting average and tied for third with eight home runs.

She says her time is best managed by having a constant eye on her planner. She said she is “looking at it 24/7,” to make sure she doesn’t have any time conflicts with school and softball.

Helping aid Bulldog student-athletes is newly appointed athletic adviser Kate Gramatico. She was an academic adviser at the University of Alaska before coming to UMD in January.

“They’re probably the hardest-working group of students I’ve ever met,” Gramatico said. “It’s amazing working with them because they have so many time constraints. With practice, with an in-season sport, you might be practicing up to 20 hours per week. Then you have games, school and personal life on top of that.”

Gramatico is in charge of UMD and NCAA certification. This involves keeping a close eye on student-athletes’ academic performance. A cumulative GPA of 2.0 is required to play, and if a student drops below that, they are immediately ineligible. Student-athletes are also required to declare a major before their fifth semester.

According to Gramatico, certification and advising go hand in hand. Because she is able to see where students stand academically, she can provide additional guidance in order for them to stay in the game.

“I can really work one-on-one with them and say, ‘Listen, this is the amount of credit that you need to take, and this is what you need to get this semester to get your GPA above a 2.0,” she said.

Gramatico said that she uses a database to project GPAs with students so that they can see what they have to do to reach their goals.

Lewis said that she goes to Gramatico for help registering for classes.

“She helps me out a lot with knowing what classes I should take in and out of season,” Lewis said. “She helps me make sure I’m getting my credits to graduate, but also so they’re not super hard for the season.”

Student-athletes who play spring sports, like Lewis, commonly take more credits during the fall semester so they can take a lighter load during the season. Lewis usually cuts down from 18 in the fall to 16 in the spring.

According to Gramatico, the average credit load for a UMD student-athlete is 14.75.

In addition, each UMD sports program adopts an initiative to support the community. Lewis and her teammates have spent time volunteering at Animal Allies.

“It’s an organic process,” Berlo said. “To get out and find what our student-athletes enjoy—to help support the community and give back.”

Lewis says student-athletes need to allow time to unwind after their busy schedules.

“You still have to have fun or you’re not going to be doing well in your athletics or your academics,” she said.


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