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Watts Center gives student-athletes support for academic, life skills

Center is part of Office of Student-Athlete Development, which offers a range of services


Two college-age people sit at a computer desk looking at papers
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April 05, 2022

To be a student-athlete is to be busy. Much of their days must be spent training and competing on the field, and student-athletes have to balance that with time needed for classes and homework.

Luckily, they have help. The Watts Center for Academic Excellence and Championship Life is home to the Office of Student-Athlete Development (OSAD), a vital component of the Sun Devil Athletics experience that provides academic and professional development support to student-athletes at Arizona State University.

Located on the third floor of the Carson Student-Athlete Center at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, the Watts Center provides student-athletes with a variety of comprehensive support services.

There are academic-focused support services — tutoring, mentoring, academic coaching, learning specialist support, computer labs and study rooms — as well as holistic development through the Championship Life programming.

The Championship Life program, led by Associate Athletic Director Alonzo Jones, offers a progressive set of workshops over a four-year period that addresses content based upon students’ academic level and ultimately prepares them for a career after sport. The programming includes onboarding and the first-year experience; Name, Image and Likeness education; and career readiness.

Each week, student-athletes get the chance to attend Championship Life events where they learn how to transition to life off the field with career skills, resume help, internship and job placement.

Andrea Lore, associate athletic director of academic and student development, says the Watts Center was designed to have both a formal and informal learning environment.

“Our tutoring center is a fun but academically-focused space,” said Lore. “A chance to meet and connect with students from other teams, to decompress, study quietly, work with a tutor, meet with your academic coach or learning specialist, etc.”

Sophomore lacrosse player Flynn Murphy uses her time at the Watts Center to plan out her busy weeks.

“I sit down with my academic adviser and make a study plan for the week,” said Murphy, who is majoring in sports business and is a student in Barrett, The Honors College. “I would work on my homework and study for the week, and if I have any questions, I go see my academic coach and tutors that assist me with any further help.”

Two men, one college age and one older, sit and look at a laptop

Academic coach Jon Erwin (left) works with Cam Magee, a freshman who plays shortstop on the ASU baseball team. The Office of Student-Athlete Development provides both tutors and mentors to student-athletes for comprehensive academic support. Mentors work like tutors, but rather than focusing on class-specific content, they facilitate growth in personal development. Photo by Sun Devil Athletics

During the fall 2021 semester, 77% of Sun Devil student-athletes earned a semester or cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, with an overall average cumulative GPA of 3.32 — an all-time high.

OSAD Assistant Director Zoe Esslinger said that GPA milestone was a testament to the resiliency of ASU’s student-athletes, especially during the pandemic.

“The entire world has gone through a lot of change in the last two years, outside of athletics or academics, so the fall 2021 GPA reflects the strong character of this group,” Esslinger said. “It also shows the strength and leadership of our staff and how adaptable we’ve been throughout this unprecedented time.”

Murphy said the fall 2021 GPA was the result of “a lot of hard work and great time management. Our schedules are really busy, but we are able to compete in the classroom every day.”

The Watts Center utilizes the university’s academic support services, such as the Writing Centers, the Math Tutoring Center and Student Success Center to help student-athletes stay on track with their grades, as well as helping them reach personal development goals.

Aside from studying, lacrosse player Murphy said the Watts Center is a place for student-athletes to come together and hang out.

“You can sit with your teammates and get your work done, and everyone can kind of get all this stuff done together, and if we need any help or anything, there’s obviously other student-athletes there that are willing to help,” said Murphy.

The OSAD also provides academic mentors to student-athletes for comprehensive academic support. Mentors work like tutors, but rather than focusing on class-specific content, they facilitate growth in personal development.

“Especially during their transition time from high school to college, student-athletes often benefit from having an academic mentor as they begin to navigate the new demands of balancing athletics and college courses and schedules,” said Esslinger.

Murphy said the services at the Watts Center are helpful considering how busy a student-athlete’s schedule is during their season.

“There are so many people that are willing to help us,” said Murphy. “Everybody here is working on their schoolwork and getting stuff done, but I think that community is really beneficial to student-athletes.”

Top photo: Sophomore offensive lineman Isaia Glass works with OSAD Assistant Director and learning specialist Zoe Esslinger at the Watts Center for Academic Excellence and Championship Life. Photo by Sun Devil Athletics

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