Serving Aces
Defensive tackle Alan Harper is one player who has found success after going through Fresno State's ACE program.
Defensive tackle Alan Harper is one player who has found success after going through Fresno State's ACE program.

Nov. 7, 2000

By Brian Risso, Fresno State Media Relations

Before Bulldog student-athletes hit the field, they have no choice but to hit the books. That's where the athletics department's academic services steps in.

Fresno State athletics' academic services department offers assistance to student-athletes in successfully managing their academic responsibilities so they may eventually complete their degrees. This process is done while maintaining athletics eligibility through several specialized services.

All prospective current and former student-athletes are eligible for service. There are currently approximately 500 student-athletes participating in varsity sports programs, and each of these students is assigned an advisor who works with that student throughout his or her college career. The department is spearheaded by Robert Knudsen and includes a group of full-time advisors each in charge of their own sports: Cleo Bauer, Katie Felten, Linda Gannaway, Kelly Hansen and Eric Sanders.

Full-time academic advisors are in charge of helping students in a number of areas, including assisting them in choosing classes to maintain their eligibility, offering personal guidance if needed, NCAA monitoring, tutoring help or providing beneficial information regarding career development. There are also individual counseling and referral services offered to students with learning disabilities, study skill deficits, career uncertainties and personal concerns. The year-round program also recognizes the needs of non-qualifying students who sit out the first year of their respective sport through a program known as ACE.

"It's good for them to know they have someone they can go to," said Hansen, an academic learning assistant and 1997 Fresno State graduate who works primarily with ACE students. "The process of being a student-athlete is confusing enough just trying to survive being a student and an athlete at the same time."

Hansen knows this for sure. The running joke is her office is essentially a "revolving door" in that students are always dropping by for some aspect of the service or even just to talk. And ironically it's not just the new students that frequent her office.

"I probably get just about as many upperclassmen as freshmen, if not more," Hansen explained. "Most of the time the older ones come by and want to show you they have had success, and that's really satisfying."

Recruiting is yet another item on the agenda of the department.

"A lot of freshmen come to our Summer Bridge program in order to get acquainted with the campus and begin to make the transition," explained Hansen. "They live in the dorms for four weeks, take orientation classes, participate in activities and begin to learn more about their career field. They are also able to receive up to ten units of credit."

The Champs Program represents the main core of the life skills development plan. It is designed to help students learn life management principles, develop life long learning and leadership skills and continue a pattern of personal and interpersonal growth. Throughout their attendance at Fresno State, students are provided services which help them identify and achieve their educational, career, personal and athletics goals.

The consensus among the department is that most students are unprepared for college and the theory that one must possess a wealth of knowledge in order to give them an answer to their questions is strongly emphasized. However, Hansen understands that any progress made by a student is special and should be recognized.

"That's what keeps me going, knowing that I've watched them fight the battle before and know they've succeeded."



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