Tag: student athletes
My friend Buddy used to say that “if you ask my dad what time it is, he’ll tell you how to build a clock”. For some people the experience of storytelling involves relatively meaningless details and “fluff”, which drives those of us who just want the facts crazy. No nonsense means more productivity. That same philosophy is important when it comes to designing and conducting a research project. Our fourth guiding principle is “Keep it simple, keep it short“. We want our students to design, conduct, analyze, and report results from a research project in one or two semesters. No chasing bunnies allowed!
Ideally, our students would join us in research projects in their sophomore year and we would work together for three years delving deeper and deeper into solving a research problem. However, in practicality it very rarely works that way. A huge chunk of our students are athletes or work 20+ hours weekly in addition to their courses. Many go home for the summer to work, go on mission trips, etc. So it is a rare student who has the opportunity and motivation to participate in uninterrupted research for three years. For this reason, we find that our typical research student is a senior taking the capstone course. Faculty and students must work creatively to find projects that are manageable in a finite amount of available time and require little learning curve or prolonged experiments. For this reason, the projects often center on use of skills learned in courses already taken to address research problems with which students are somewhat familiar. It is a blending of student interests with instructor guidance and insight to create a project that is simple and short. We believe more is gained by short-term projects of student design than from short-term involvement of students in projects of faculty design. After all, we are trying to train the next generation of leaders and professionals rather than the next generation of workers and technicians! We have a choice to be average or exceptional, and we choose to make our students exceptional!
McMurry has a long and storied tradition in the sciences. But the tradition in athletics is just as far-reaching. Only at a small school like McMurry do those worlds blend so effortlessly. I can’t imagine a major state school having their hard-core sciences so heavily populated with athletes (or more correctly STUDENT athletes) as we see here.
In my junior-level microbiology class this morning are 18 students. Among them are a baseball player, two football players, two swimmers, a men’s basketball player, a tennis player, and three tracksters. There is also a former women’s basketball player and a cheerleader. Though this semester is a little unusual, it is never hard to find someone involved in intercollegiate athletics in my classes or those taught by my colleagues in the sciences. Last semester? My star student was a women’s basketball player and also in the class were swimmers, tracksters, and football players. Some this semester are BIMS majors, some plan to pursue careers in nursing or other science-oriented majors. No special courses for them.
Teaching an athlete-laden course is a challenge, for sure. Partnership between faculty and coaches and the athletes themselves make it work. Their travel schedules require them to miss a class here and there. They are always conscientious to make up the missed work and our faculty are willing to work with them to keep them caught up. But for every challenge that is faced by their dual lives, a benefit is received. We enjoy knowing them well and joining them in fulfilling their dreams to be collegiate athletes. When their teams win, we celebrate with them. And we are doubly happy when they manage to conquer their courses as well as their opponents.
For all who think balancing the lives of a college athlete and college student must be impossible, McMurry has hundreds of examples who do it very well every day.