29 Jul 2015

integrating athletics with institutional missions

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Although much of the current discussion on reform in intercollegiate athletics frames sports teams as a drain on resources, athletics can be a powerful mechanism for furthering institutional missions. Consider the case of Northern Michigan University. It’s mission is to “challenge its students and employees to think independently and critically, develop lifelong learning habits, acquire career skills, embrace diversity and become productive citizens in the regional and global community.” Athletics at NMU, guided by innovative director Forrest Karr, is a key contributor to this mission in that it attracts diverse, high-performing students from around the world. The new swimming and diving team, for example, brings students to NMU who likely would not be there without sport. These student-athletes enrich the campus environment immeasurably, contributing diverse perspectives to the school’s efforts to create leaders for the global community. Administrators and professors in higher education can learn from NMU to develop more creative and purposeful integration of athletics and academics.

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