LARAMIE, Wyo. -
by Micaela Myers of UWyo Magazine
The term “student-athlete” says it all—a balancing act, a student on the one hand, an athlete on the other, taking on two demanding roles. While all student-athletes share this challenge, many University of Wyoming student-athletes take it to a whole new level, choosing challenging majors, maintaining outstanding GPAs and garnering accolades along the way.
“Nationally, you’ll often see a clustering of majors for many student-athletes, such as interdisciplinary studies. Here we have high-caliber academic students who are seeking the majors they want,” says Phil Wille, associate athletic director for internal operations. “It sets us apart and speaks to the ‘cowboy tough’ ethic because a lot of students will tough it out in an engineering, science or pharmacy major, for example. Those are high-level programs, and it takes a lot of effort to balance that.”
One of those students is senior Stuart Williams of Nederland, Colo., starting placekicker for the Cowboys, who graduates May 2015 with degrees in both architectural and civil engineering after finishing his final Cowboy season in 2014. Williams maintains an impressive GPA and was a national candidate for the 2014 National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Award, also referred to as the “Academic Heisman.”
“The faculty members have been outstanding,” Williams says. “If I was on the road for a game, they’d give me options for when I could take the test. I had one teacher meet with me for my final at 3 a.m.—that shows the dedication of our faculty to our student-athletes.”
UW Athletics also offers a full spectrum of support for the 350 to 400 student-athletes the department serves each year, including academic coordinators who help students with scheduling and NCAA rules, mentors, tutors, a nutritionist, and a performance and sports medicine staff, as well as workshops on life and career issues.
“Our Office of Academic Support is outstanding,” says Alex Boehm of Wilsonville, Ore., starting goalkeeper for Cowgirl soccer who graduated December 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in business administration. “The tutors that we have available and our advisers helped me accomplish everything I wanted to—they’re there every step of the way if you need them. That’s so important to every student-athlete because there are a lot of things we have to manage.”
Boehm was named to the Mountain West All-Tournament Team in 2014, and the Cowgirls went undefeated at home. All the while, she maintained a 3.9 GPA and earned the most outstanding senior award in business administration through the College of Business.
Colin Herold of Thermopolis, Wyo., pursued an accelerated bachelor’s in finance and his MBA in energy management while competing on the track and field team. His accomplishments include finishing fourth in the 60-meter hurdles at 2014 Mountain West Indoor Championships and receiving the top senior in finance award through the College of Business.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if it weren’t for sports,” he says. “Athletics at the university taught me to be driven, and I think that translated over into my academics.”
After the 2014–15 season, Herold plans to apply to law school and pursue energy litigation.
Golfer Emily Woodard of Cheyenne, Wyo., plans to apply to medical school after she graduates in 2016 with her degree in chemistry. She finished 14th at the Mountain West Championships in spring 2014 and earned Mountain West All-American Scholar honors. She also appreciates the relationships she’s made with her coach and teammates. “Our coach is like a second mom to us,” she says, adding that she was able to adjust her practice schedule to fit her demanding major.
One thing they all agree on is that the sacrifices are worth it. “Sports provide a great community and support system,” says Boehm, who plans to pursue an MBA. “And in Wyoming, the entire state is behind you.”