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Student VS Athlete (How do they do it?)

By Stephanie Stanislao and Nick Proulx

Being a student athlete is a two-part proposition, and not an easy one at that. This month we look at a wonder-woman who manages to find the balance between talent on the court and excellence in the classroom. Andrea Henning is a volleyball player who was named to the Summit League Fall All Academic Team as Distinguished Scholars and to the Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence last year. We caught up with her to see how she does it.


Andrea Henning

Year: Senior

Credits this semester: 12, compared to a usual 15 or 16-credit load.

Major: Exercise Science

Hardest class right now: Abnormal Psychology

A regular day: Monday and Wednesday morning – lifts from 7 to 8:30 a.m., treatments at the Fieldhouse at 2 p.m. each day, then practice from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m.

The key to finding the balance: 

“It’s definitely having the support from people like Kelli Layman. She definitely helps you stay on top of your game, especially for me. Every week we have a plan of what I’m going to do, what order I’m going to do things, and it definitely teaches time management. You learn throughout the years how to study, how to advance and prepare for tests and stuff like that. I think the older you are, the easier it is, but time management and taking advantage of study opportunities is crucial.”

“Getting tutors at ACE (Academic Collegiate Enhancement) helped a lot too throughout the years. We have all these resources for academics, which is awesome for us. Our coaches put academics at the front for us, whereas a lot of teams don’t have study halls. I feel like those help us a lot, and past teammates help us too because a lot of them have taken the same classes. You have a whole support system here helping you do the best you can.”

BI: Has there been any time during your career here that you found your limits?

Henning: “There definitely have been some mental breaks. I think it was my sophomore year when I was taking chemistry and anatomy at the same time, and those are super hard classes — especially anatomy, it’s very tough. At times I would have breakdowns and go to my coaches office and say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel like it’s too much.’ They would calm me down and help me, remind me that it wasn’t the end of the world.”

BI: What’s the perception most people have about student athletes, and what’s the reality that you experience?

Henning: “Student athletes are way different than a regular college student. Us teammates always wonder what a regular college life is like. When we have off-days, we don’t have any idea what to do. We’re so used to going to class and then going to practice, and then when we don’t have practice, it’s weird. I don’t think we know what a normal college life is like, and I don’t think normal college students know what our life is like because this is like a full-time job for us. You’re constantly thinking about volleyball or about your schoolwork, so it’s nice to have some days off to just go to a movie or do something with your friends and try to be normal again. It’s hectic, but it definitely is worth it — it’s awesome.”

BI: Do you lose sleep over all of it?

Henning: “Um, yes [laughs], especially when I have tests and stuff like that. But I like to study in advance for a test instead of cramming the night before, because I know I can’t stay up studying until two in the morning. I have to make myself go to bed before midnight because practice is a big thing, and you have to be fresh for it. You do lose sleep over it, but I think everyone loses sleep when they’re stressed out over something.”

BI: What does the academic recognition you received last year mean to you?

Henning: “It’s great to be recognized for your academic success too, not just for your sport. It’s a good accomplishment that shows that hard work does pay off.”

Student Athlete Advisory Council

You’ve seen NDSU’s athletes making passes, putting up big shots and hitting a line drive for the scoring run. We know that they all hit the books and study hard, but what a lot of individuals are unable to see is the amount of work that student athletes do to give back to the Fargo-Moorhead community. NDSU Athletic’s Student Athlete Advisory Council is just one organization that each and every one of the Bison athletes participate in.

The organization, which has been around for 20 years, allows for student athletes to have a voice with both the men’s and women’s athletic directors, Gene Taylor and Lynn Dorn. SAAC is made up of two representatives from each sport, and members are typically chosen by their respective coaching staff. Among being able to give feedback and aid in NCAA decision making, SAAC has representation on the Drug and Alcohol Council and participates in a variety of community events. According to Dorn SAAC puts on two main events each year, “The two that they really highlight are the Halloween Party, that’s a community outreach for all the youngsters in the community. That’s the last Sunday in October, hundreds of little kids come. At that they do prizes, games, treats, candies and give-a-ways. And then they also do the annual blood drive, I think we’re in our 18th year of doing the blood drive. We call that the Valentines Blood Drive.”

Bison Women’s Basketball powerhouse Janae Burich explains why she values being a member of SAAC, “My favorite part about SAAC is getting the chance to voice my opinion on different issues and events, as well as the many opportunities that it brings. There are usually several projects or events being planned, and SAAC members are often needed for other campus committees and councils, so it gives you a chance to get involved in a variety of ways, which can be quite helpful in building up the resume.”

John Straka, a pitcher for the NDSU Baseball Team and President of SAAC, expresses what the community should take from SAAC, “I think it is important for people to know that SAAC is always open to new ideas. We love having new places for individuals or teams to volunteer, different events to help out with, and being presented with exciting opportunities to give back to the great community we have here in the FM area!”

Academic Collegiate Enhancement

Being a student athlete already comes with many challenges…making time for practice, games, volunteering, a social life and balancing school work can be a lot to handle. But, with the help of NDSU’s on campus tutoring services, students are able to receive help in difficult courses and have a nice and quiet study space. ACE tutoring assists students in a variety of subjects including accounting, biology, chemistry, computer science, economics, engineering courses, math, microbiology, physics, psychology, sociology and statistics, among others. Located in the basement of the West Dining Center on campus, students receive these tutoring services for free.

Official title:
Associate Director for Learning Services and Athletic Academics.

Unofficial Title:
The woman who makes it all happen.

Her Time Here:
Fourth year in this position; with NDSU for 27 years.

What She Does:
Works with the student athletes to help them make a smoother transition in college. She acts as a mediator between faculty members and student athletes. Primarily, she helps them with time management.

What She Has at Her Disposal:
The ACE (Academic Collegiate Enhancement) facility is located in the basement of the West Dining Center on NDSU’s main campus. Tutors offer free assistance in 100 and 200 level courses. Directly under her she has another full-time employee, Zach Heidmann and four graduate assistants.

Number of Student Athletes She Works With:
About 123 of the roughly 356 student athletes at NDSU.

”A lot of times I’m just a sounding board for Andrea. If she has an idea she’ll bounce it off me and ask, ‘Is this what I want to do?’ For her, since she is a solid student, the component we’re working on with her right now is graduate school: Where should she go, and how does she get in. That’s the fun part of my job, when they’re getting ready to make the next move and helping them do that. It’s one of the two rewarding things about this job; the other is when you have a freshman or sophomore and, after a few years of hard work, you watch them walk across the stage and get their diploma.”

By the Numbers

According to the NCAA GSR – Graduation Success Rate for Athletes is 87 percent. (The GSR is a six-year look at a student-athlete’s eligibility and retention. Two snapshots, one at the beginning of the cohort; the other at the end of six years.)

According to the NCAA APR for 2011-12 – Academic Progress Rate for Athletes is a 97 percent eligibility/retention average (The APR is a term-by-term snapshot of a student-athlete’s eligibility and retention.)

In 2011-12 academic year the average GPA for student-athletes was a 3.195.

Breakdown of Student Athletes in NDSU colleges:

14 – Student Athletes in the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources.

27 – Student Athletes in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science.

48 – Student Athletes in the College of Business.

53 – Student Athletes in the College of Engineering and Architecture.

117 – Student Athletes in the College of Human Development and Education.

31 – Student Athletes in the College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Science.

31 – Student Athletes in the College of Science and Mathematics.

70 – Student Athletes in the College of University Studies.

Student Athletes spend between 8 and 12 hours a week in ACE.

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Published eight times a year, Bison Illustrated provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Bison community in order to help promote the university’s players, coaches, alumni, supporters, staff and fans.


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