Conference Proceedings

Keynote speaker

As the keynote speaker, Robert Malekoff opened the conference and played a key role throughout the proceedings. He also produced a White Paper (see the Conference Readings & Notes) synthesizing the reports about the preliminary ACM campus conversations.

Dr. Malekoff is Assistant Professor of Sport Studies at Guilford College, where he directs the Sport Management program. Malekoff served as a men's lacrosse and women's soccer coach at Princeton University before embarking on a career in sports administration. He was Director of Research and National Consortium Coordinator at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society, where he also co-authored On the Mark: Putting the Student back in Student-Athlete. Dr. Malekoff served as an Associate Director of Athletics at Harvard University, and then as Director of Athletics at Connecticut College and The College of Wooster. He has served on numerous national sport committees including the NCAA Division III Management Council, and has written, spoken and consulted extensively on the role of sport in higher education. Dr. Malekoff was also instrumental in the formation of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's College Sports Project (CSP), and is an active member of the CSP Coordinating Committee.

Some points from Robert Malekoff's keynote address

  • If we don't figure out how to integrate academics and athletics at liberal arts colleges, then precisely the kind of people we want to have as athletic directors and coaches will not want to work at our institutions.
  • I would argue that athletics are a bigger part of the culture at liberal arts colleges than at Division I universities. A lot of resources go into athletics — time, facilities, faculty and coaches, and money. If we're not talking about how to maximize the value of what we're getting from these resources, then we're missing the boat.
  • Institutional leadership and commitment are needed to make integration a priority and to make it happen. College presidents must clarify the goals of their institutions' athletic programs.
  • Good faculty and good coaches are both very intentional and very deliberate about preparing to do as well as possible, whether in the classroom or on the playing field, so there certainly is common ground for integrating academics and athletics. We need to look for ways that faculty and coaches can learn from each other about teaching.
  • The challenges to integration raised in the ACM campus discussions and outlined in the White Paper include: the perception of an athletic subculture, scheduling conflicts between athletics and academics, and the Division III "arms race" in which coaches are expected to spend more and more time recruiting athletes.
  • In moving toward integration, ongoing orientation of new coaches, faculty, and students is very important, as is hiring and evaluating coaches based on the stated values, philosophy, and mission of the institution.

Conference Sessions

Panel Discussion 1: Challenges into Assets

Building on the challenges outlined in the keynote address, the three panelists talked about particular challenges to integrating academics and athletics on their campuses, things their colleges do well in integrating academics and athletics, and ideas for turning challenges into assets.

  • Panelists: Marie Baehr (Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, Coe College), John Cochrane (Director of Athletics, Cornell College), and Michael Hemesath (Professor of Economics, Carleton College)

Breakout Session 1 and Reporting Back: Addressing Challenges

Conference participants split up into groups by college to discuss ways to address the challenges raised in the first panel discussion.

The participants then reconvened for a plenary in which a representative of each group presented a list of best practices from the breakout session. (See below or download the Notes from Breakout Session 1 (Microsoft Word 25kB Dec2 09))

  • Group A: Carleton, Coe, Macalester, St. Olaf
  • Group B: Cornell, Grinnell, Ripon
  • Group C: Colorado, Lake Forest, Luther, Monmouth

Notes from Breakout Session 1

Best practices:

  • Coaches with faculty status
  • Coaches', faculty's, and students' choices to be at a Division III institution—with all this means
  • Option of reducing the number of contests by 10% if needed
  • Orientation processes that help communicate both the philosophy and the processes
  • Recognition and use of student leadership skills gained from athletics
  • Student advisory athletic committee that communicate regularly with administrators
  • Intentional communication processes that include admission, academic departments, coaches, faculty, administrators
  • Comprehension of College community on the important role coaches play on student success
  • Intentional communication between coaches and faculty to reduce the number of times student MUST miss classes
  • Invitation of a particular person to a particular event (both directions—athletic and academic) rather than thinking an all campus communication plays the same role
  • Campus culture that embraces the holistic view of "success" and all the components
  • External review by reviewers respected by administration
  • Involvement between faculty and Athletic Directors on scheduling
  • Written policies, shared with faculty, administrators, and students, on missing classes
  • Processes to reduce the "sub-culture" perception of student athletes—earlier orientation, advising,...
  • Campus support of viewing "student wellness" holistically, which helps to include athletics in a non-competitive way
  • Involvement of coaches in students' academic success
  • Accepted process where a student athlete sits down with faculty BEFORE missing the class to discuss what will be missed and faculty signs off on the discussion.

Breakout Session 2 and Reporting Back: Addressing Challenges from a Specific Perspective

Participants were assigned to groups based on job categories in three wide areas – Academics, Athletics and Administrators – to discuss the challenges and the solutions offered so far in the conference. (See the Group Assignments (Acrobat (PDF) 78kB Nov5 09) for Breakout Session 2)

The participants then reconvened for a plenary in which a representative of each group presented feedback from the breakout session. (See below or download the Notes from Breakout Session 2 (Microsoft Word 28kB Dec2 09))

Notes from Breakout Session 2

Athletics Group:

  • Improve communication
    • Committee work helps
    • Recognized and accepted policy on missed classes (48 hour policy)
    • Processes that include both constituencies to avoid "mom said it's okay syndrome
  • Make sure we hire those who "fit" into the liberal arts mold; make sure recruited students "fit" by WANTING to be involved in the broad life of the college.
  • Develop consistent institutional philosophy that is embraced at all levels.
  • Evaluate coaches by including not only win-loss record, but also retention, character, leadership, involvement, making sure mutual respect across the campus, inclusiveness, visibility (e.g. if you go to a faculty meeting only when an issue, it is noticed; if typically there, it is not). Note: Need to collect what each ACM college does in this area.
  • Develop a culture where coaches and faculty work together—to be successful at this, coaches' role really needs to be understood better (by faculty, staff, and students) across campus; recruiting, advising, involvement; educating on the big picture of LA, not just the athletic aspect—retaining students is everyone's business.

Academics Group:

  • Create a culture where faculty's involvement with extra-curricular activities at the college can be recognized in some way. Are all extra-curricular responsibilities treated equally? Should they be?
  • Have discussions around the following questions: How does a college go about "growing" the Liberal Arts students holistically? How do you help students navigate the pulls on their time?
  • Help the students transition over four years—adjectives they use to describe their identity will and should change over these four years.
  • Work on ways to leverage off of positive aspects of the athletic sub-culture issue. Sometimes a sub-culture of one particular sport may have a negative connotation that might or might not be warranted. However, this is an institutional, not athletic problem.
  • Make sure stereotypes do not get in the way (bad logic—big guy must be football players; football players don't work too hard; therefore this student won't work hard;...
  • Work institutionally to use student interest in sports to help recruit the student body closer to the ideal.

Administration Group:

  • Administrators share the issues collectively—three big ideas:
    • How do we define "student success"? Needs to include more than just academics; more than just athletics; more than just any one thing. What is the difference between doing your best and winning?
    • Athletics missions should be written and aligned with the College's mission.
    • Perceived athletic sub-cultures—
      • New student orientation and athletic side to plan.
      • Peer athlete leaders to attend things at the college and during orientation.
      • Integration should be modeled by faculty/staff at LA institutions; share ideas, team-work learned from coaches; make it easy to see the bonds to OTHER sub-cultures.
      • Have New Faculty/Staff Orientation that includes the athletic side and orientation visa versa for athletic.

Facilitated Interactive Panel Discussion: Solutions

The panelists shared themes from the morning sessions and turned the conversation to developing more concrete solutions and strategies for implementation. They outlined four "big ideas" or themes to maximize educational value of a liberal arts education by focusing on the integration of academics and athletics. The four themes are listed under Breakout Session 3. (See below or download the Notes from the Interactive Panel (Microsoft Word 39kB Jan22 10))

  • Facilitator: John Chandler (Director of Athletics, Coe College)
  • Panelists: Rachelle Brooks (Director, Center for Data Collection and Analysis, College Sports Project), Robert Malekoff (Guildford College), and John Ottenhoff (Vice President, ACM)

Notes from the Interactive Panel


What does it mean to "consciously build liberal arts students"? This should not include just student-athletes. One way is through meta-cognition—what, when and where are they learning? Students need to learn repercussions for their actions. If they choose to spend time in areas, causing them to underperform, how does this affect future possible choices?

We've discussed division between athletics and academics and the ways communication could improve the integration, but this can be said about most any two areas of the college—communication can occur in all of them to improve.

Mission of College needs to be clear and embraced by all at the institution. It should drive decision making, so it is truly a mission-driven institution.

Assessing coaches—shouldn't be done without understanding how it links to the mission. This is true for assessment of anything at a College.

Bob Malekoff quotation: "How do we maximize the educational value of athletics?" Make sure that whatever we work on this afternoon is done to make this a reality. Communication between athletics and academics in and of itself is not the point—it should be done SO AS to maximize the educational value of athletics. These decisions need to be data driven to see if what you do has any impact.

It appears that a common theme to this point in the conference is that institutions have not given much attention to proactive discussions between academics and athletics (usually reactive).

Challenge: How do you get broader involvement (president, BOT, ...) to get an "integration model" vision embraced by all stakeholders?

Communication has been a big theme. As you think about solutions, think about both informal and formal (similar information to people on reliable basis—what and how) forms of communication can increase the integration between athletics and academics.

Challenge: During this conference, when a lack of communication is noted, it seems as though the brunt of the problem/needed communication falls on the coaches. This should be a shared problem, not one that, if solved, will be perceived as only helping the athletic community. The faculty are able to do their job better if they have this broader prospective as well. The focus/culture needs to move from how can the coaches help the faculty to how the communication between coaches and faculty can help the institution.

When you go back to your institutions, excited about implementing some of the tactics heard at the conference, make the time to do so, don't wait until you have the time.

Orientation needs to be broadly defined and should include making sure the various constituencies (faculty, staff, administrators, students, BOT members, ...) understand the integrative mission of the college.

Faculty/coach model—will probably never come back in the way it was years ago, but there are some middle steps that could help in this area, such as making sure coaches have faculty status; serve on committees, are invited to faculty functions,....

After this conference, it will be important for campuses to continue the discussions, create tactics to improve, implement the tactics, and assess the effectiveness. This will continue to be a huge thing on the campuses and we need to think carefully how it stems from the educational mission.

Many of discussions occurring during this conference also link to the discussions occurring elsewhere in the ACM area:

  • Meta-cognition (Teagle grant)
  • Quality evaluation (Committee on the Status of Women)
  • What it means to teach at a liberal arts college (Post-doctoral fellow workshops)
  • Ways to provide inter-disciplinary faculty development (VPs and Presidents)

Some items that did not seem to be discussed:

  • Under-performance and under-representation
  • Integration of things like study abroad and sports
  • Ways to integrate academics into athletics components

Big Ideas, or themes, stemming from the discussion and feedback:

Maximize educational value of a liberal arts education, focusing first on the integration of academics and athletics, through:

  • Theme A: Determining how to Define an integrative intuitional mission, with divisional missions, including explicit missions for athletics, aligned with institutional mission,.... embraced by all, and assessed.
  • Theme B: Creating informal and formal communication methods and models that include all constituencies , and assessed.
  • Theme C: Creating orientation programs—broadly defined—for new hires, for students, ongoing, and assessed.
  • Theme D: Come up with tactics to bring the athletic strengths to the classroom and to bring the academic strengths to athletics –best practices.

Breakout Session 3 and Reporting Back: Solutions by Theme

Based on the conversations thus far, each participant selected the "theme" (from the four listed below) that they are most interested in developing further. Campus delegations were encouraged to split up and work on more than one theme, if applicable.
In the Breakout Session, each group prepared to present two or three action items to eliminate or reduce the challenge of integrating academics and athletics at ACM colleges.

The participants then reconvened for a plenary in which a representative of each group presented a summary of the group's discussion and proposed next steps or action items. (See below or download the Notes from Breakout Session 3 (Microsoft Word 63kB Jan22 10))

Notes from Breakout Session 3

Theme A: Determining how to define an integrative intuitional mission, with divisional missions, including explicit missions for athletics, aligned with institutional mission, embraced by all, and assessed.

Summary of discussion: Discovered lack of knowledge of the current existence of athletic missions on campuses; came up with a set of recommendations that:

    1. All institutions should create, review, and/or update the athletic mission, making sure it is honest about the ways athletics works at the institution and making sure it stems from and supports the institution's mission.
    2. Have ACM collect athletic mission statements and post them on the ACM web site.
    3. Use the mission statement to help inform the ways athletic staff should be evaluated.
    4. Discover and determine how existing mission statements are shared with others.

Next steps:

  1. Collect statements along with information on how the statements are currently used.
  2. Discover how they could be worded to help liberal arts students be guided by this.
  3. Discover good practices in these areas to help understand what possible assessment strategies could be used.

Theme B: Creating informal and formal communication methods and models that include all constituencies, and assessed.

Summary of ideas:

    1. Go back and look at athletic mission statements to make sure practice is in alignment with the statements (this portion could be linked with the first theme).
    2. Ways improve the lines of communications:
      • Athletic directors attend faculty meetings, introduced by the President, to discuss the athletic mission statement that stems from institutional mission statement; discuss what it means to be a part of a team.
      • Have "faculty" lunches with a coach or coaches who are at the start of the season to let faculty know what the plans are for the team and what the season may look like.
      • Alumni magazine — reserve a spot on a regular basis that highlights a scholar student athlete — highlighting both successes at the same time.
      • Institutionalize an A-team dinner for all students who have a 4.0 average for the year — invite faculty to this event; A-team poster — posting in different academic departments so faculty can relate to the students.
      • Communicate between faculty and coaches about students and student at risk.
      • List majors on athletic rosters so it is about both athletics and academics.
      • Show excellence in the classroom by having an A sticker to put somewhere on a uniform.
      • Cooperation between faculty and coaches on recruitment efforts so each can learn from the other.

Next steps:

    1. Try them and let other ACM knows how they work.
    2. Build in assessment strategies to determine the effect.
    3. Track the successes of the implemented tactics.
    4. Have an e-mail forum of how things worked and other ideas — keep the conversation open.

Theme C: Creating orientation programs — broadly defined — for new hires, for students, ongoing, and assessed.

Summary of ideas:

    1. Orientation needs to begin before the hire — with search; during searches, both athletic and academic persons should be included in the process — this helps to provide an overview and model the integration.
    2. Orientation of student athletes — includes both academic and athletic expectations during the campus visit. Talked about PODS (e.g. junior faculty, senior faculty, coach, create a cohort to stick together for the year — helps to break down the barriers) in use by Lake Forest College.
    3. Once on campus for faculty and staff, have an integrated approach to the initial orientation. Continue the conversation on a monthly basis where they come together as a group, rather than divisionally.
    4. Make sure to have a mentoring system.
    5. Implement mentoring with student athletes.
    6. Need some type of assessment — talk with the individual faculty and staff members to find out what worked well, what could have worked better, and what might be added.

Next steps:

  1. Work on a model of faculty/staff orientation using pods and share with the people who attended this discussion — learn from each other, to lead to a template for use by all schools that see the usefulness of it — FaCE grant??
  2. Each person will interview one person to find out what they wish they had known/been told/were made aware of — this will start to flesh out what the curriculum of this event could be.

Theme D: Come up with tactics to bring the athletic strengths to the classroom and to bring the academic strengths to athletics — best practices.

Summary of ideas:

    1. Athletes will always be part of a class audience; if possible, tie athletics in as a learning model, do it a couple of times in a term — IF IT FITS the class.
    2. Intentional discussion of teaching and coaching strategies; teaching triangles allow faculty to learn from each other — create a similar model that includes coaches in classrooms and faculty in coaching arenas.
    3. Invitation to coaches to be a part of faculty meetings and other committees; invite faculty to be a part of athletic meetings.
    4. Creation of academic links for first-year students to make sure the student-athletes are grounded not only in athletics, but also in academics — good model is ACE from Lake Forest.
    5. Orientation — advising workshops for coaches and faculty — more than advising for the classes they need — developmental advising.
    6. Celebration of the successes — alumni newsletters.

Next steps:

    1. Do some of them and report back how they work.
    2. Share the effectiveness of what you try with the other members of this discussion group.
    3. Use of evidence and assessment tactics (not discussed).