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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Graduate programs get bump from student athletes

Gribble won the 2020-21 team Unsung Hero Award. PHOTOS: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Like hawks as they age, St. Joe’s sports teams in 2021 and 2022 will be battle-tested and full of veteran moxy.

Last season, the men’s soccer team had no graduate student-athletes. This season, it has seven. On the men’s tennis team, six of the seven players on the roster are graduate student-athletes. The 2022 baseball roster is slated to have eight graduate student-athletes, doubling its total from a season ago. All three team captains on St. Joe’s nationally-ranked field hockey team are graduate student-athletes.

This sharp uptick in graduate student-athletes is not unique to Hawk Hill, but is happening across the NCAA. The NCAA has granted an additional year of eligibility to student athletes for all sports because of the coronavirus pandemic. The spring 2020, fall 2020 and winter 2020-2021 seasons will not count towards student-athletes’ NCAA eligibility, giving graduate students the opportunity to participate again.

At St. Joe’s, other factors have also played a role in the increase of student-athlete enrollment in graduate studies, according to Joshua Power, Ed.D., executive director of Graduate and Extended Studies, College of Arts and Sciences and School of Health Studies and Education. Power cited a recently implemented 10 percent alumni discount and the addition of more programs that enable students to earn a graduate degree in only one year for the uptick.

“All these things were happening around the same time,” Power said. “It presented the perfect opportunity for student-athletes to enroll directly into the graduate programs.”

Alexa Gostovich ’21, a runner on the St. Joe’s women’s cross country team and a graduate student working towards a M.A. in biology, said she considered attending graduate school this past spring.

“Knowing that I had that extra year of eligibility was something that I looked forward to, and working towards my master’s degree was a bonus,” Gostovich said.

The university has also welcomed a graduate student who previously attended a different school for her undergraduate degree. Alayna Gribble, a guard on the St. Joe’s women’s basketball team, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in the spring of 2020 with two years of NCAA eligibility still remaining. Gribble was drawn to St. Joe’s because of the graduate programs offered by the Erivan K. Haub School of Business.

“I think that a major attraction of [St. Joe’s] was that I could finish my MBA in three semesters,” Gribble said.

When other student-athletes discovered they had an extra year of eligibility and were “scrambling” to take advantage of it, Power said his department worked to provide support for them.

“I can think of two or three cases where we worked with coaches to try to find the right program for their student-athlete,” Power said. 

As a graduate student, Gostovich said she has taken more time to focus on her studies. Still, she has found a comfortable balance between academics and athletics.

“I manage my time better by being an athlete,” Gostovich said. “It gives me time constraints as to when I need to do my homework, or study, and it makes me more productive.”

Power said that student-athletes can be desirable candidates for graduate degree programs because of their time management skills.

“In graduate studies, people are often faced with work-life balance issues,” Power said. “That’s nothing new for student athletes because they’ve been doing that for their entire playing career.”

Deborah Haak, director of graduate programs at the Erivan K. Haub School of Business, said the communication skills that student-athletes develop in their sports translate to graduate studies and the professional world.

“We’re in a 24/7 communication world with email, Zoom and different learning techniques,” Haak said. “Learning the different styles of being able to communicate with different people through athletics certainly has them prepared for the next step in life.”

Gribble completed her MBA in April and is now enrolled in classes for a M.S. program in business intelligence and analytics. She said that she believes her college experiences will help to advance her career prospects.

“I think it’s a major selling point to future employers that I earned various master’s degrees while being a student-athlete at the same time.” said Gribble, who wants to pursue consulting or an analyst position as a career.

Once Gostovich finishes her master’s program, she said that she would like to go to veterinarian school.

Though it remains to be seen whether the increase in student-athlete enrollment in graduate programs is a part of the “new normal” or simply an anomaly, it gives student-athletes the opportunity to maximize their college experience, according to Haak.

“I think this has certainly given athletes a view into what else they can get out of their education at St. Joe’s,” Haak said.

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