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Champions On and Off the Field

By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Published Apr 1, 2014 8:00 AM

UCLA's prowess in athletics is well-known throughout the country. Less is known, however, about the campus' success in another arena — the education of its student-athletes.

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UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. Photo by Kyle Alexander.

When the UCLA women's soccer team defeated the Florida State Seminoles in overtime this past December, winning the College Cup, it was a victory on many fronts. It not only marked the first national title for women's soccer at UCLA, but it also marked the Bruins' 110th NCAA championship — a record still unprecedented anywhere in the history of college athletics.

But when coupled with another, lesser known achievement here at UCLA, it speaks to an even larger ideal among Bruins — a commitment to success on all fronts. This year, UCLA posted one of the highest graduation success rates for student-athletes in the nation, with 87 percent earning their degrees — the most comprehensive measure of academic success by student-athletes. It's proof that a public university's athletic program can achieve success on the field and in the classroom alike, making certain that our student-athletes are prepared for their future, regardless of whether they pursue careers as professional athletes.

It's a success born of our dedication to prioritize academics within our athletics department — a core value that UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero '74 has conveyed to me and demonstrated time and again through his successes. In the past six years, he has expanded Athletics' Academic and Student Services significantly, increasing it from 10 to 17 full-time staff — making certain our student-athletes can receive the support they need.

Our commitment begins during the recruiting process and extends all the way through graduation and beyond. From the moment prospective recruits are identified, they are thoroughly evaluated for their academic skill as well as for their character. We must make certain that those who require extra assistance in their course work will have the dedication to succeed on and off the field. Each recruit then receives a thorough evaluation from a panel including members of our faculty, administrators in student affairs and the director of undergraduate admissions. That panel has the final word on every recruit.

Those who accept offers of admission undergo comprehensive academic evaluations the summer before they enroll in classes here, letting us determine how much academic support they will need so that we can create individualized programs to guide each of them toward graduation. Close collaborations between our athletics department and our academic programs throughout the year are key to the program. Neither can operate in isolation if we want to ensure the success of our student-athletes.

Students in all 25 varsity athletic programs have access to — and, in many cases, are required to use — support in four key areas: academic counseling, which helps them determine course schedules and set academic goals; tutoring for courses as well as academic mentoring, which helps them develop good study habits and other learning strategies; orientation and graduation information; and programs that help them develop leadership skills and a dedication to community service.

It's not a one-size-fits-all approach. The program is individually tailored to the student-athletes' needs and their academic progress is closely monitored throughout their time at UCLA. In turn, the student-athletes are held accountable for living up to their responsibilities in the classroom.

It pays off, with 44 percent of all student-athletes at UCLA making the Athletic Director's Honor Roll each quarter by earning a minimum 3.0 term grade point average in 12 or more academic units.

Every student who attends UCLA — whether it's to win a Nobel Prize in physics, become the next great film director or find a pathway into the NFL — must be given the chance to realize his or her full potential. We are dedicated to making certain they achieve that. It's something you can feel good about the next time you cheer on any of our Bruin teams.