Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Study Mentors Contribute to Academic Success
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Study Mentors Contribute to Academic Success

Thanks to a collaboration between the Hobart and William Smith Athletics Departments and the HWS Center for Teaching and Learning, Statesmen and Heron student-athletes have a new resource in their quest for academic excellence, Athletic Study Mentors. [Of note: the photo above was taken in the Warren Hunting Smith Library in Feb. 2020 prior to COVID-19 protocol.]

Athletic Study Mentors (ASM) are peer facilitators, teammates, who help student-athletes with time management, note-taking, reading and study skills, and with the transition to college life. ASMs are nominated by their coach and embedded within their team, but are hired, trained, and supported by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

“The ASM program is designed to provide student-athletes with support that is real, responsive, and responsible,” says CTL Assistant Director Ingrid Keenan.

The program began as a pilot project during the 2018-19 academic year with 10 of the Colleges’ 23 varsity teams participating. The ASM program has since expanded to all of the Heron and Statesmen teams.

This academic year, 21 ASMs provided support to their teammates through workshops and one-on-one meetings. Hobart senior Dan Masino joined the program last year helping the Statesmen basketball first-years make the transition to college studies. This year, he reprised his role and also assisted the William Smith basketball team.

“Overall I think the ASM program is very effective,” Masino said. “I strongly feel the proactive training helps the first-years have an easier transition, and it’s also very helpful to have someone they know they can go to for pretty much any question they have throughout the semester.”

ASMs are responsive to students’ needs and requests, and help them identify strategies that will be effective for them. At the same time, they serve as role models who can set an example with their own study habits and academic engagement.

Masino explains that initial questions typically revolve around tips on how to ease the transition, such as how to make a daily or weekly schedule, how to read a syllabus to pick out important information or what things professors look for when grading. “As we get more into the semester the questions are more specific,” he says. “They ask for tips for preparing for exams or assignments, how to approach a professor when you have to miss class for a game and how to prepare to register for spring semester.”

The program has shown clear results. During the fall semester of 2017, HWS first-year student-athletes had an average GPA of 3.03. By the second year of the ASM program, that average had risen to 3.17 and this past fall it was 3.26. Hobart basketball first-year Matt Brand, who plans to major in economics, appreciated the example Masino set and his willingness to listen and offer sage advice.

“From the jump, given his successes, I knew Dan was someone I was going to look up to and I knew I was going to pick his brain every opportunity I got and I did,” Brand said. “I can’t count the number of times Dan was readily available to help me with anything whether it was school-related, life-related, or basketball-related. He was that guy and he took pride in being that guy.”

William Smith lacrosse senior Sadie Mapstone is in her first season as an ASM, helping the Heron first-years. Like so many other things, it was a job made more challenging by COVID-19.

“I ran workshops over Zoom with the entire first-year class two times in the fall semester,” Mapstone said. “I made sure to have a 30-minute one-on-one meeting with each first-year at least once this semester and made myself available for additional one-on-ones throughout the semester.”

Mapstone said she took advantage of nice weather and had “walk-and-talk” one-on-ones outside whenever possible and, of course, made sure to wear masks for all in-person meetings.

“All of the first-year definitely had a positive outlook on the COVID situation and I didn’t really have to deal with any additional challenges,” Mapstone said. “The only possible one was registration. It is a pretty stressful situation registering for your spring semester classes as a first year. If it were normal times, I would have had all the first years together to have a small breakfast and register where I would’ve been there for extra support. Since I wasn’t able to do that, I really stressed having multiple back up classes for each class and opened a zoom meet where if they ran into any issues I was there to help.”

“I felt very lucky that I had this opportunity to not only help my first-years transition from high school to college, but also to develop more of a friendship with them that I wouldn’t have been able to form otherwise,” Mapstone said. “I think that Coach Anne Phillips and Coach Morgan Ewert do a great job recruiting not only great athletes, but also great students and great people.”

The feedback CTL received on the program was universally positive as first-years found ASM to be somewhat helpful (23%) to very helpful (63%) to I couldn’t have done it without them (14%). Brand appreciated the advice Masino doled out throughout the semester, but felt his example and dedication were most helpful.

“Although great reminders, it wasn’t the PowerPoints necessarily that made the program so great or impactful, but having a successful role model that cared about me and my success, that I can lean on for anything, was what was so great.”