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November 5, 2009

Office of Student Life implements a new game plan

By: Reyna Gilbert

This year, the Office of Student Life has revised its career development programming in an effort to better assist Virginia Tech student-athletes in reaching their career goals. The office has implemented the “Career Game Plan,” a program that is intended to focus on a different aspect of career development each year of a student-athlete’s career at Virginia Tech, essentially serving as a stepping stone on his or her path to postgraduate success. The goal will be to help student-athletes fill their career development “playbook” with information that will help them achieve their postgraduate goals.

During their first year, new student-athletes will learn about academic/career interests through self-awareness, researching and choosing a desirable major, and developing a strong academic foundation at Virginia Tech. Sophomores will receive assistance in finalizing their major/minor programs of study, learning and utilizing the career development resources on campus, and researching and engaging in the necessary academic requirements for graduation.

As juniors, Virginia Tech student-athletes will participate in the Junior Jumpstart. This program will consist of an etiquette dinner followed by a presentation from the career services staff about how student-athletes can market their experience as Division-I student-athletes. They will learn about résumé writing and job search correspondence, interviewing skills, preparing for a job fair, networking and how to explore career options. During their last year, seniors get help improving their level of effective interpersonal communication skills, securing full-time employment post-graduation or gaining admission into graduate school. Seniors will attend the Senior Transition Seminar and will also be encouraged to attend career fairs related to their major as well as graduate school workshops sponsored by Career Services.

Last month, senior student-athletes attended the Senior Transition Seminar, an interactive dinner program which provided them with cutting-edge table manners and etiquette as well as tips on marketing their experiences as a student-athlete, networking, transitioning from college to the world of work/graduate school/professional athletics, and how to explore career options. Leigh Anne Leist, Virginia Tech career services’ senior assistant director, facilitated the etiquette dinner portion of the program and assistant director Becca Scott talked to the group about recognizing the transferable skills they have acquired through sports participation and how to articulate those qualities during an interview.

“The transition seminar was a great opportunity to improve my fine dining skills – they were non-existent beforehand – and it helped open my eyes to what we as student-athletes truly endure in the way of managing time, reaching goals and finding balance in a truly hectic life,” men’s cross country senior Devin Cornwall said.

“The food was great and the speakers were very helpful in teaching me how to apply my experiences as an athlete to future employment opportunities,” women’s soccer player Robin Chidester said.

The NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills program has recently implemented a grant program to enhance limited resources on campuses as a result of the current economic situation. The goal of the grant was to assist NCAA institutions in creating or enhancing CHAMPS/Life Skills programming centered on student-athlete and student population initiatives and issues. A total of 95 colleges and universities from all three divisions applied for the grants ranging from $500-$2,000, and 57 were awarded grants. Virginia Tech was awarded $1,000 to create and implement the Junior Jumpstart. The grant funds will cover the dinner portion of the program as well as any additional associated costs.

Institutions receiving grants must present their use of grant funds and outcomes at a future NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills Continuing Education Conference. The Junior Jumpstart will be conducted in March 2010 and will be presented at the 2011 conference.

Although the name may sound novel and a bit catchy, the programs offered through the Career Game Plan are far from new. In the past, student-athletes have attended similar distinct programs, but by combining topics and themes, they will have the opportunity to receive the same information at one time and place. This will allow for increased attendance at programs. The plan will also serve as a recruiting tool for coaches as a way to provide a more concise career development program for prospective student-athletes and their parents.