D3 Spotlight: Academics and Athletics

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Division III Week is a positive opportunity for all individuals associated with Division III to observe and celebrate the impact of athletics and of student-athletes on the campus and surrounding community. Division III Week continues through April 7.

Throughout an athlete's career, there are many individuals who inspire, influence and shape the collegiate experience. At the Division III level, student-athletes have a unique opportunity to discover, develop and dedicate time to athletics, academics and personal interests. Many of the individuals that have a hand in molding the students' experience are faculty and staff of the university. Here are what some of our faculty and staff have to say about working at a Division III institution:

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"I know it may sound cliché to talk about athletes learning teamwork, but I teach a collaborative art form and I value having athletes in my classes. Whether they're automatically pitching in to clear the stage or organizing a communal breakfast outing prior to an 8 a.m. final, the student-athletes in my classes organically contribute to the activities of the class and the inclusion of their colleagues."

Kathy Privatt, James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Midwest Conference Faculty Athletic Representative

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"I love working with our student-athletes. They come to schools like Lawrence University knowing that the academic environment will challenge them to grow as thinkers and doers and that there will be many opportunities to apply what they learn in and out of class. They understand the need to stay on top of their courses year-round and to maintain consistent study habits. Their education is part of the longer view of lifetime learning and contributing. Our coaches understand this and work to provide balance between academics and athletics, even in the middle of an intense season.

Our student-athletes also love their sport and want to participate at a high level. They love the competition and camaraderie that are natural to athletics. They learn to take care of themselves physically and mentally. They find opportunities for leadership and to mentor younger team-members. The vast majority of faculty understand this and work to accommodate our athletes, especially in season. 

These two aspects: athletic competition and academic intensity balance and support each other. The many student athletes I have known are some of the most well-rounded, positive students I have had."

Alan Parks, Professor of Mathematics

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"As a former D3 athlete I recognize the hard work, commitment and sacrifice LU's student-athletes put in each season. Those qualities translate directly to the classroom and to their lives after Lawrence. As a faculty member, it's a thrill to see them succeed in as both students and athletes."

Former Lawrence women's soccer player Beth Zinsli, Assistant Professor of Art History, Curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries and Museum Studies Interdisciplinary Area Program Director

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"Over my 22 years at Lawrence University, I have taught student-athletes who competed in many NCAA Division III athletics. Unlike a Division I institution, where varsity athletes are not evenly distributed across academic programs, DIII student-athletes study every subject. I teach physics and I have taught and advised physics majors who were swimmers, fencers, soccer players, softball players, baseball players, cross-country runners, tennis players, basketball players and others. I see the positive effects that athletics has on their character and work habits. They take their athletic training and competitions very seriously, but nearly all of them maintain a healthy balance between athletics and academics. They tend to have excellent time-management skills and self-discipline. 

I also love to watch Division III athletics, sometimes to see particular students I know, but other times simply to see the dedication, focused effort, teamwork and sportsmanship displayed in competition. A peak DIII experience for me was a NCAA basketball tournament game hosted at Alexander Gymnasium on the Lawrence University campus on the 10th of March 2006. It was a Sweet 16 game between the Lawrence men's team and the team from Illinois Wesleyan University. Lawrence lost that game – their only loss on the season – but it was a thrilling game in a packed gym."

Matthew Stoneking, Professor of Physics

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"I arrived at Lawrence in 1998 from the New York City area – where professional and D1 college athletics rule – never having taught at a D3 institution. I quickly discovered that D3 athletics represented what college sports were all about. At Lawrence and other D3 institutions, there is no doubt about which part of the student-athlete experience takes priority. Lawrence athletes are students first. If there is ever a conflict, academics always win out. But athletics is an important partner to the academic experience at Lawrence. It offers its own education, teaching responsibility, maturity, humility, fairness and selflessness – qualities that we hope liberal arts students absorb during their time here. Athletics have aptly been called 'the sweatiest of the liberal arts,' and its values flourish at Lawrence and D3: college sports as they should be."

Jerry Podair, Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and Professor of History

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"We love having student-athletes in our Theatre Arts classes and productions. They bring with them a grounded sense of discipline. They understand the importance of group learning. They often model for our majors and minors what it means to practice hard with a sense of joy and purpose. D3 athletes model the crossover learning we hope to instill in all of our students – commitment, attachment and dedication on the playing field readies them for learning in the classroom and rehearsal hall."

Tim Troy, J. Thomas and Julie E. Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama and Professor of Theatre Arts

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"One of the great advantages of athletics at a D3 level is the close connection between participation in athletics and the educational program. Our educational mission stresses learning to perceive and understand situations, solve problems and work collaboratively. It also stresses the development of a sense of self and a commitment to excellence. This overlaps completely with the mission of an athlete or team of athletes. When a hockey player is encountering an opponent, the player must quickly understand where the opponent is, how that individual is moving and what that individual is likely to do. The participant must quickly create a strategy for addressing the opponent and implement that strategy. Almost always, that strategy will depend upon the actions of a teammate and quick communication about what the teammate is going to do. Similar considerations would apply to other team sports, and also to individual sports. Even in the latter case, there is the influence of teammates, particularly in encouraging individuals through difficult times. The athletic participation is really applied learning or applied cognition. It is a laboratory for tying out what a person has learned, evaluating it and modifying where necessary. The applied part gives the participant quick feedback.

From the point of view of an observer, there are additional advantages. If is enjoyable to see your own students in action. The competition is not encumbered by worries over things like national rankings. Students are very appreciative of faculty involvement at their contests, and this helps build  rapport between students and faculty."

Dave Burrows, Professor of Psychology and Director of Inclusive Pedagogy

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"I'm grateful to be on the faculty at a Division III institution where I get to enjoy watching my students on the playing field or court and where I know that student-athletes really are students first. I appreciate how Lawrence as a Division III university cultivates a welcome sense of balance: rather than professionalizing sports, Lawrence places genuine value on academics. At the same time, the opportunity for students at Lawrence to participate in sports and develop as athletes brings balance and versatility to students' lives beyond academics. Moreover, as a professor at a D3 institution, I get to see the ways that mutually beneficial relationships between athletics and academics unfold. I get to watch a student develop their discipline and time-management skills through training for soccer as well as through writing a paper on Virginia Woolf. I get to see a student cultivate a collaborative spirit on the basketball court and during discussions in Freshman Studies. I get to witness a student tap into her passion for track while also tapping into her passion for Claudia Rankine's poetry."

Karen Hoffmann, Associate Professor of English