ASHLAND - Academic success among Ashland University’s athletes starts with the students themselves, aided greatly by a staff of coaches that believes in the importance of the classroom.
In the last four years, the university also has provided those athletes and coaches a big assist. Hired in August 2018, Elizabeth Hoge is AU’s director of academic support services for athletics, assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator.
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In that position, Hoge works with coaching staffs and professors to ensure the academic success of Ashland's student-athletes. She meets with students from all AU teams — individually or by team — to help provide tips for success.
“I think it shows how much we emphasize academic performance in that we have a full-time, assistant athletic director whose main function is academic counseling,” AU Director of Athletics Al King said. “The president has been persistent in looking for ways he can provide her with more help.
“Elizabeth … has introduced a number of new programs to help student-athletes flourish academically.”
Ashland was able to bring Hoge on board through an NCAA Division II Strategic Alliance Matching Grant. A 2005 graduate of the University of Akron with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Hoge earned a master’s degree in college student personnel from Miami University in 2007.
An AU student-athlete’s introduction to Hoge starts early. She meets with freshmen and other first-year Eagles during their first couple of weeks on campus, getting to know them, talking about resources available at AU, discussing time management and how they can accomplish things as both a student and an athlete.
“I like setting up Google calendars,” Hoge said. “That’s a good help for some of our student-athletes. They do have a lot — when they have their classes, when they have practice and watching film, hanging out with friends, how to get that all together.
“I try to help out as much as I can and get the word out about all the things they have access to to be successful. … Let them know that I’m supporting them, their coaches are supporting them, their teams are supporting them and they’re not alone.”
Student-athletes can get tutoring in any class if they request it. Study tables vary by team. Some teams require study tables, others do not. Some are monitored by coaches, some are monitored by Hoge outside her office on the second floor of Kates Gymnasium.
“More teams are adding (study tables),” Hoge said. “I think they see the value of having structured study time. I think that does help, especially our freshmen as they are adapting from high school and going into college. It can be stressful adjusting.”
AU has about 700 athletes on campus, and standards are high with a cumulative grade point average of better than 3.1 among those participating in a sport. That takes a real collaborative effort among students, coaches and professors.
Hoge can serve as a go-between among professors, students and coaches. Professors can let her know if a specific student is struggling. That information then can be passed on to a coach, who might tell the athlete to sit out a few practices to focus on their studies.
“We’ll figure out who we are worried about and why are we worried about them," Hoge said. “I’ll have regular meetings with that student so we can set up an academic plan and stick to it.
“If I say this student is struggling, they need a bit of a break, that coach will do it. I see that. Not only because they want to keep their athletes eligible but because they want them to have a successful academic career. They are very supportive of that.
“They want to make sure the students are doing well in the classroom and they are trying to support the professors, as well.”
Some students visit with Hoge every week to talk about things like an English paper they have coming up, concern about a research project or an important test.
Others might just want to talk about aggravations that are impacting their classwork. Things like stress at home, a roommate they don’t get along with, how to communicate with professors appropriately or just how to get better sleep.
Then as the students become juniors and seniors, the conversations turn more toward graduation, professional development and post-college plans.
“I start referring them to their career center to make sure they’re getting their resumes all updated,” Hoge said. “I try to get them to recognize their own accomplishments and getting them properly put on paper for when they start applying for jobs.”
Both King and Hoge said having athletes arrive on campus who are already motivated academically makes things easier. Of the 700 athletes at AU, Hoge said maybe 100 really need attention to make sure they’re doing well.
Coaches also have a profile of the type of student they want to recruit.
“A number of (our coaches) have been here long enough that they know what kind of student can thrive here,” King said. “However, we're still willing to supply an opportunity to someone who might fall outside of that profile.
“A college education can open a lot of doors and our coaches, as a whole, look to reward student-athletes who are willing to put in the time, be a good citizen and be a good teammate.”
And also excel at their sport.
“I’m proud of these kids, they do so well,” Hoge said. “We have so many high-achieving students. It’s a point of honor for them to have that high GPA.
“But just as much as they want that high GPA, they want that (Great Midwest Athletic Conference) title, too.”
This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: Ashland University's student-athletes flourish with Hoge's help