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Marquette student-athletes raise questions about internships, studying abroad in audience with NCAA president




By Chris Jenkins

Photos and video courtesy Marquette University Athletics

As part of his visit to campus earlier this week, NCAA President Dr. Mark Emmert took questions from a group of nearly 300 Marquette student-athletes.

He had questions for them, too.

Emmert wanted to know if the time demands that come along with being an NCAA student-athlete were too much of a burden. The answer he got from Marquette senior women’s soccer player Maegan Kelly might have been surprising: no.

Kelly told Emmert she got plenty of support from Marquette’s academic advisers as a freshman, giving her the tools she needed to manage her time demands.

Besides, she said, she couldn’t imagine not playing college soccer.

“I like my sport,” Kelly said. “That’s what I do.”

But when Emmert continued to ask the group about things the NCAA could do to help them from an academic perspective, one suggestion came through loud and clear: Student-athletes would love to have the time for things that are common among other students, such as doing internships or studying abroad.

Cullen Cassidy, a senior men’s lacrosse player, brought up the NCAA television commercials that note most student-athletes will “go pro” in something other than sports.

“What do you actually do to help us get jobs?” Cassidy asked.

Emmert’s answer: “Not enough.”

“We’re not spending enough time with you saying, ‘What’s next?,’ ” Emmert said. “I think, candidly, that we let students down in the regard.”

Emmert said the NCAA was looking into measures that could give student-athletes more time in the offseason to focus on work experiences such as internships.

Marquette Vice President and Director of Athletics Larry Williams agreed.

“I was really heartened to hear Dr. Emmert's comments relative to internships and international programs,” Williams said. “He is keenly touching on very rich opportunities of college life that too frequently are sacrificed due to the extraordinary dedication to academic and athletic achievement by student-athletes. These comments demonstrate that Dr. Emmert's approach emanates from a deep commitment to student-athletes' growth and development, principles that underpin what we do here at Marquette.”

Beyond that, Emmert said the NCAA needs to continue its efforts to educate potential employers on the leadership and time management skills that student-athletes learn through sports and can bring to the workplace.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t understand what it takes to be a successful athlete especially a successful Division I athlete,” Emmert told the crowd.

Emmert, who also was a guest for an “On the Issues” public policy forum at Marquette Law School and met with Marquette President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., in his visit to campus, told student-athletes that their academic success should get more attention.

“You guys do better academically than the non-athletes,” Emmert said. “That’s something nobody knows or realizes. They often don’t think you’re serious as students, which is also not the case at all. We are telling these stories much more aggressively, and we just started that in the past couple of years. That’s starting to get into people’s heads.”

Junior men’s soccer player John Mau, who met Emmert during the summer as part of his role as president of Marquette’s student-athlete advisory committee, said student-athletes might have walked away with a different perception of an organization that draws a fair amount of criticism.

“I thought it was fantastic,” Mau said in a video posted on Marquette athletics’ website. “Everyone always sees the NCAA in a negative light, and I think today people walk away with a very positive outlook on it.”

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