Clark Athletics Department Reinforces Ties to Clark, Worcester Community at All Athletic Meeting

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Clark Athletics Department Reinforces Ties to Clark, Worcester Community at All Athletic Meeting

Sara Conroy, Sports Editor

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Before classes even started, the University’s Athletic Director, Trish Cronin, welcomed back returning athletes and introduced our first year and transfer athletes to Clark. Every year, the entire department of athletics gets together to celebrate the induction of a new class of athletes and another year of competitive play in the New England Women’s and Men’s Conference. Speakers at the event included the Athletic Director, the Chair of the Faculty Athletic Board, the Director of Prestigious Fellowships and Scholarships, and the General Manager of Clark Dining Services. The event serves as a chance for these individuals to update students of changes in athlete academic policy or new missions around campus that athletes will be involved in.

Hot topics at this year’s meeting included what’s new at Clark dining, the new registration policies for athletes, and the mission in the athletics department of “changing the culture”. The General Manager of Clark University Dining Services Michael Newmark received lots of applause for updates to dining services that promote health and convenience for all students, including athletes. Newmark shared that Dining Services has been striving to go local and provide more options in the way of meat alternatives. This year, the Higgins Cafeteria will be using locally sourced tofu in its dishes and the Bistro will also be serving the Impossible Burger. Impossible Burgers have become increasingly popular as a meat alternative and have been spotted on menus across the country, including on the Burger King menu as the Impossible Whopper. I also had a chance to speak candidly with Newmark regarding the new vegetable steamer in the Higgins Cafeteria. Newmark had come up and asked me if everything was working alright with the machine and offered his scoop on how the steamer came to the Cafe. The new addition was part of an effort to offer more ways to get in those daily serving of vegetables according to Newmark. The General Manager seemed thrilled that students were already enjoying using it before classes had even begun for the semester. Athletes may have been the first to know of these new Dining options because of preseason and the all athletics meeting, but the benefits will reach the Clark community at large. To find out more about what’s new with Clark dining see postings around the University Center or ask staff in the Higgins Cafeteria or Bistro and if you get a chance, let the staff know how you like the new additions.

Professor Mark Miller of Clark’s Political Science Department is the Chair of the Faculty Athletic Board, which brings athletics department staff, students, and academic faculty together to help coordinate the efforts on all fronts to create successful student athletes. Last year, the student athletes finished the academic year with an average 3.4 GPA according to Athletic Director, Trish Cronin. Part of that major success is due to the hard work of the Faculty Athletic Board. Student athletes have the sometimes-difficult job of finding classes that fulfil major or minor requirements and university program of liberal studies requirements around their hectic game and practice schedules. The typical division three NCAA student athlete describes their academic to athletic commitment as 39.1 hours/week for academics and 30.3 hours/week for athletics, with some time for other activities, according to the NCAA survey of student athletes. Student-athletes cannot miss class for practices and can only miss class for competitions when permission has been given by the professor. Thus, wherever possible student athletes must register for classes that wouldn’t conflict with athletic commitments. The University Registrar’s Office blocks classes from overlapping with a student athletes normal competition time. In order to take a class in that period, the student-athlete must get the permission of the professor before taking a class that the student may have to miss for competitions. While this adds a certain complexity to registering for classes as an athlete, it helps to ensure that students and professors are on the same page about which classes are realistic to take during their seasons and which they may want to try and take in their off season. This rule has been in effect for over a year now but is still fairly new to the University. Professor Mark Miller reminded all the student athletes of this registration requirement and reminded coaches to be mindful in their competition planning, so as to reduce academic – athletic conflict. 

Finally, the Clark University Athletic Director (AD) emphasized the role student athletes play on the Clark Campus. For the first-year student athletes, this would be an introduction to the standard the Clark Athletics Department sets for all student athletes. On top of participating in about a 30-hour commitment per week to their respective sports, the Clark student athletes are also exemplary students and participants in Clark’s many clubs and activities. While these are voluntary commitments, it is also the expectation that our athletes take the initiative to take on further commitments if their schedules allow for it. Trish Cronin, the AD, reminded athletes that none of us are here solely to play sports and that one of the goals of the department going forward would be to create a positive culture in the athletics department. According to Cronin’s speech this meant bridging the gaps between the Worcester and Clark communities and the athletics department as a whole. For the most part, student athletes agree that there is a heavy participation of athletes in these communities. The Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) serves as a representative body of the whole population of student athletes. Though their job on this campus extends far beyond improving the quality of life for student-athletes. This student club is run by a five-person executive board and is attended by roughly 50 student athletes. Throughout the year, SAAC develops workshops for student athletes regarding academics, equitability and Title IX education. They also plan and coordinate events with the community including an ongoing partnership with Columbus Park Elementary where student athletes from all teams visit the school to motivate students to take initiative, teach students how to play sports they may not otherwise come into contact with, and to answer questions about athletics and academics. You can find student-athletes participating in a range of other, none-athletics, related clubs and activities as well. Despite the already high engagement, Cronin and the other Athletics Department heads will be developing ways for even more student athletes to contribute positively to the campus culture of getting involved and helping out whenever possible. 

Here, I have provided a quick recap on the all athletics meeting that occurred earlier this year. Most of this news pertains directly to policies and missions that impact Clark student-athletes. However, the Scarlet believes in the value of information sharing. I attended this event and the news shared here is a first-hand summary of the information shared with the athletes. To get news from the athletics department, you can visit the department’s website or follow their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts to get live updates.