Q&A with ASU's Jean Boyd

In the world of collegiate athletics, if a student-athlete is unable to live up to the University's academic standards that person's athletic potential may never fully be able to come to life. At ASU, the office of Student-Athlete Development helps ensure that all athletes stay in acceptable academic standing, and does so in a team-oriented fashion similar to the ones seen on the field of play.

For football at ASU, the orchestrator of student-athlete development is Associate Athletic Director and Director of Student-Athlete Development Jean Boyd, who lettered in football at ASU in 1991 and 1993 and enters his 13th year working in the Sun Devil athletic department.

Devils Digest recently caught up with Jean Boyd for an exclusive look into student-athlete development at ASU.

Devils Digest: What is it like working to help keep over 100 football student-athletes in excellent academic standing?

Jean Boyd: "It is equally rewarding and challenging. When you have 100 individuals in any group, whether it's in a business infrastructure or any team or organization you're going to get the full gamut of personalities, the full gamut of abilities, you're going to have some individuals who are extremely capable but may not perform to their capabilities and then you will have those who might not be as well prepared but are going to bust their tails."

"In order to meet the needs of each individual you have to have a program that is very broad-based and very flexible. We try to establish a program that meets the needs of each individual regardless of their background."

DD: What are some of the main aspects of the approach your team takes toward academic development?

JB: "The premise starts with the element of competition. We challenge every football player to compete to the highest of their abilities, academically, just as they would in football. We have a concept called ‘Scholar Baller' that motivates and rewards them for performing academically at a high level."

"We have an assessment that we do with every individual when they enter the program as freshmen which evaluates their strengths and weaknesses before they even start as a student and then we're able to provide the appropriate support based on who they are as a human being. If there's someone who has problems with reading comprehension, we'll put together a class schedule and have some support in terms of tutors and so forth that addresses reading comprehension."

"If someone's not good at math, we will know so before the semester begins and will have a math tutor available to them from day one. We have a great deal of structure, especially for the first-year football players; every first-year player is required to be in a structured study program and you have to earn your way out of it."

"If after your first year you've earned over a 2.4 GPA, you won't have to be in that structured study program any longer but we still monitor your progress. For the higher-end students, individuals who are extremely capable of being 4.0-type students, we're going to steer them toward the honors college, we're going to steer them toward majors that are consistent with their abilities like the school of business which is a top-25 ranked program."

"We're going to try to get them to engage in extra community service and things of that nature so that they can be Academic All-Americans and can be up for postgraduate scholarships when they get to be a senior and are graduating. We try to meet the needs of every student athlete based on who they are and what their aspirations are both as they come through the doors and move forward in their collegiate experience."

DD: What are some of the main aspects of the ‘Scholar Baller' program?

JB: "A ‘Scholar Baller' is a student athlete who accepts the challenge of balancing his playbook with his textbook and he/she is able to do so at a very high level. The program itself is open to all sports but is most utilized by the football team. It uses language that the young people use, i.e., "baller," to motivate them to do well in school. For a 3.0 student in football they wear a patch on their jersey and they also receive academic awards. It helps make school cool, so to speak."

DD: What are your feelings on the facilities and resources available to ASU's student-athletes?

JB: "Having been a student athlete, graduated in 1994, the facilities and resources are top notch. We have between 50 and 60 tutors on our staff that are available at any given time, not to mention all the resources that the University offers in general."

"In addition to that, we have a computer lab available, we have full-time professional staff that is comprised of some incredible human beings who show up every day to ASU because they care about the student athletes and want to empower the student athletes to be successful, graduate and then go on in life and be successful after their done. These individuals, called "Academic Coaches" have a huge impact on the football players. Things that a student athlete will encounter from an academic standpoint, we're there to provide guidance and lend support."

DD: How does your past career as a football student-athlete at ASU help you be more effective with today's student-athletes?

JB: "I've walked in their shoes. There's really not a situation that a student athlete will encounter that I have not encountered myself or observed a teammate encountering when I was in school. Having had those experiences and knowing how challenging they can be helps a great deal; students don't have to go into a lengthy description of how challenging things are because I've lived through it. It helps me be relatable and to provide solutions and suggestions that can go a long way in terms of helping them meet their objections."

DD: Describe a day in your life as Director of Student-Athlete Development.

JB: "No two days are the same ever when your job centers on the lives of 18-22 year olds, there's a lot of patience and flexibility required. I stay up on current events. Young people are evolving rapidly and society is changing; technology is playing such a huge role in our society. Doing things like understanding how people age 18 are evolving and changing and providing a support network that meets their needs even as times change, I spend a great deal of time on. I also spend a great deal of time forecasting, setting our agenda and setting the bar high for football academic achievements."

DD: Who is included in your team in the office of Student-Athlete Development?

JB: "There are four full-time individuals, including myself, who focus primarily on football. We also have a graduate assistant whose sole focus is football academic and there are three to four other support staff individuals that are involved as well as 50 or so tutors and learning assistants. The three other full-time individuals are Corinne Corte, Patrice Feulner, Courtney Skipper, as well as (former ASU safety) Alfred Williams, who was recently brought on to pursue his master's degree and be our graduate assistant for football academics."

DD: How does head coach Dennis Erickson help support the student-athletes' academic development?

JB: "He supports everything that we do and helps make sure everything stays on track. He genuinely cares about the students and about them graduating. It's a partnership for us all to keep these guys focused on everything they have going on so they can be successful."

Joe Healey is a 2006 graduate of Arizona State University and a guest contributor to Devils Digest. He is also a feature writer each month in Maroon and Gold Illustrated and has contributed to ASU media guides, press releases and other official athletic publications. He can be contacted by email at josephwhealey@hotmail.com.

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