By Victoria Cortinas
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
Student-athletes at the University of the Incarnate Word have two more advocates to help them stay on track toward graduation – athletics academic advisers Haley Ayres and Ashleigh Smith.
The transition to Division I last year brought in additional rules and regulations for student-athletes regarding academics.
“NCAA Division 1 regulations required for us to bring on an additional academic adviser with the purpose to improve and maintain our academic standing in the division,” Assistant Director of Athletics Angela Lawson said.
“Our job is to make sure that the new regulations are met per student-athlete,” said Ayres, who advises student-athletes participating in baseball, golf, swimming and diving, women’s basketball, softball, volleyball, and men’s soccer.
Ayres holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., and a master’s of education with a concentration in workforce development education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She began her academic advising career in Fayetteville working with the School of Arts and Sciences but had limited experience with student-athletes.
Nevertheless, Ayres said she didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to join UIW.
“I knew that I wanted to continue advising, because that’s what I really enjoy doing,” she said. The transition into athletic academic advising this year has been smooth, Ayres said. “I’ve found it to very collaborative, which has definitely made it easier.”
Smith, who was a solo act a few months before Ayers came, advises student-athletes participating in football, women’s soccer, tennis, cross country, track and field, and men’s basketball.
Smith, who played softball at the University of the Arkansas-Pine Bluff, holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from that institution and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in higher education from Iowa State University in Ames.
Her background as a student-athlete helps her relate, Smith said.
“I too spent my years in college as a student-athlete so I remember all of those hardships really well,” said Smith. “My job now is to work with the student’s primary adviser to make sure that those obstacles don’t kick them off their track to graduation, and that they stay eligible to play.”
Each student-athlete has their primary adviser within their individual major that they still go to for their academic advising, the athletic advisers emphasized.
“We step in and work with their advisers to check on their ‘progress toward degree’ and make sure that they graduate within the five-year Division 1 requirement,” Smith said.
“We also make sure that if they are struggling, that they receive any additional assistance, whether it’s connecting them with a tutor, or going to their required ‘study hall,’” Ayres added. “One of our primary focuses is to keep them eligible to play. Really we’re just serving as a support system for each student, because they’ve got a lot on their plate.”
“They’ve got a lot of responsibilities to keep up with and we really want to make sure that they know we’re available for them to help them get through to the other side,” Smith said.
“You have to remember, they’re students first, so graduation is still the first priority,” Ayres said.