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Student-Athlete Development Completes Standout School Year

By Andy Fledderjohann

The 2018-19 school year has come to a close, and what a year it has been for the University of Miami’s Department of Student-Athlete Development. Designed in 2014 to develop programming that will enhance the total development of our student-athletes, the Student-Athlete Development department has grown in size and scope and become an integral part of the UM Athletics Department. 

Senior Associate AD for Student Athlete Development Shirelle Jackson and her staff, assistant director Alexander Martin and program coordinator Sarah Baron, have worked extensively to develop new opportunities for UM student-athletes to learn and grow personally and professionally.
“Over the last half decade, the goal for the office of Student Athlete Development has evolved,” Jackson said. “First, we established a standard, then erected a culture and now we are a key component of our student-athletes’ living and learning environment. Hurricanes are in the community so much so in 2018 we won the national championship for service and this year finished in the top 10. While that is critical, it just scratches the surface of what we have them engaged in. Drug & alcohol awareness, sexual assault education, career development, campus engagement and inter-sport encouragement are all avenues we have paved to assist in the full growth of our student athletes.”
Student-Athlete Development has made a big push in creating community service opportunities for UM’s student-athletes, with the track and field/cross country, football and women’s basketball teams leading the department in community service hours.
Miami finished ninth nationally among all Division I schools in community service hours for the 2018-19 school year. Among individual programs, the Canes’ men’s tennis program finished first nationally among all men’s tennis programs in community service hours, while the football team was 10th among its peer institutions. Miami’s rowing team was of eight teams nationally in any division to earn a 2018 NCAA Team Works Service Challenge Award for its work in the community.
“University of Miami student-athletes have a strong dedication and passion for community service and helping those of need in our surrounding community,” Baron said. “Throughout the year we visit elementary schools, aftercare programs, children’s hospitals and homeless shelters just to name a few. We run a voluntary community service program which means the student-athletes see the value and the impact they have. They do the service out of the kindness of their hearts. We will continue to work just as hard and give back just as much in the next year.”
Student-Athlete Development held an array of events for student-athletes from all sports, including an Internship and Career Fair, which featured 47 companies. In all, 83 student-athletes attended, including 27 of the 54 graduating seniors. UM also had career and networking events for both the women’s basketball and baseball programs, featuring program alumni who had “walked in their shoes” and can talk about their own transition from college athletics into their next steps, whether it was professional sports, internships or full-time employment.
For the first time, UM participated in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine, which was held in April in the Soffer Indoor Practice Facility. Following the combine, two student-athletes – Dalanda Ouendeno (women’s soccer) and Terry McCray (football) – were invited to participate in the National Combine in North Carolina.
The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Program offers minority athletes and female athletes the opportunity to pursue a career as a NASCAR pit crew member with a top NASCAR race team. If the selected athlete has the talent, through this rigorous training program it will take approximately three years to reach the highest level of the sport, which is the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
In February, UM held a Celebration of Black Culture event, which was centered around the women’s basketball game against Notre Dame. As part of the event, UM celebrated the link and history between black athletes and the Harlem Renaissance. Jackson and her staff welcomed in two presenters from the University of Texas at Austin as the keynote speakers, Dr. Louis Harrison and Dr. Leonard Moore (pictured at the top of this page), who have done significant research in racial identity and the African-American athlete.
The event also showcased the special women’s and men’s basketball uniforms that adidas created for our student athletes to celebrate black culture during the month of February. At the game, there was a special performance from the National Pan Hellenic Council Step Show, while local singing group Supremacy performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as well as the national anthem.
“This truly was a special event due to the collaborative efforts of our Student Athlete Development office, the UM Women’s Basketball Program, adidas and the University of Texas at Austin,” Martin said. “Through this collaboration we were able to highlight the link between Black Athletes and the Harlem Renaissance, which came from the research done by adidas in order to design custom CBC uniforms for our Men’s and Women’s Basketball programs.”
Jackson and her team also have supported UM student-athletes in pursuing a wide array of leadership opportunities, both within the university and outside of it.
Among the highlights:
Zach McCloud (Football), Lexi Castellano-Mugica (Soccer): “It’s On Us” Sexual Assault Ambassadors
Sydney Knapp (Women’s Swimming & Diving): “New to the U” Admissions Ambassador
Amari Carter, Nicholas Ducheine (Football): UM Sports Industry Conference attendees
Kathleen Hanson (Rowing): UM Mental Health Ambassador
Kasia Pasternak (Rowing): Student Government Senator
While the summer is a good chance to hit the reset button after a long school year, the department has big things on the horizon for the 2019-20 school year, including the launching of the Hurricane Leadership Academy.
“Student Athlete Development is proud to announce the culmination of our personal, career and leadership initiatives into one structured program, The Hurricane Leadership Academy,” Martin said. “This is a three-year leadership program committed to developing and supporting our student athletes in the holistic approach to become elite scholars, top competitors and campus leaders.”