Rachel Pausz in Action

Scholar Athletes at Georgian Court: Debunking the “dumb jock” Stereotype One Award at a Time

by Hanna Thrainsdottir (Digital Communication, 2022)

At Georgian Court’s annual Convocation, students that have excelled in their field of study are awarded academic accolades. This year, seven of these students are athletes on one of Georgian Court’s 12 athletic teams. Laura Liesman, Assistant Vice President for Athletics at Georgian Court, says that student-athletes’ academic achievements mean a great deal to the athletic department.

“A strong work ethic in the classroom typically translates into a strong work ethic in athletics and vice versa. Our strong commitment to student-athletes academic achievement is, at the end of the day, why we all are here at Georgian Court,” Liesman says.  

Landry Cheta, a member of the men’s soccer team who received the award for Academic Achievement in Biology, says that similar to sports, succeeding in the classroom takes dedication and practice. “Both the student part of me, and the athlete, need a lot repetition in order to progress in either field,” he says.

Rachel Pausz, who runs cross country and track for Georgian Court and was the recipient of the Robert A. Panten Award for Accounting, agrees. “Being a student athlete has taught me how to be focused and determined to put my best foot forward. It has also taught me how to take pride in my work and how to work until I am happy with the results,” she states. 

Cheta, Pausz, and their fellow student-athletes honored at Convocation certainly disparage the “dumb jock” stereotype that is often attributed to student-athletes. The stereotype suggests that athletes are less competent than other students in the classroom.

However, research shows that the stereotype has little truth to it. Multiple studies suggest that physical fitness positively influences cognitive ability. Recent studies suggest that student athletes—at both high school and college level—are no less competent in the classroom than other students.

A study conducted by Angela Lumpkin, Professor at the University of Kansas, showed that high school athletes had higher GPA’s, attendance and graduation rates.

Another study, conducted by researchers at Michigan State University, suggests that if coaches emphasize and expect good academic performance, student-athletes are more likely to succeed in the classroom. Liesman emphasizes that academic success is held in high regard within the athletic department at Georgian Court.

“Athletics fully integrates into the entire educational process at Georgian Court. Our student-athletes’ academic successes are celebrated as much as a victory on the field or court” she says. 

Certainly, the athletes honored at convocation embody the fundamental idea of a student-athlete, where being a student comes first. It is only appropriate to let a proud Liesman have the last word. “Student-athletes at Georgian Court put the NCAA Division II model of “Life in the Balance” into action each and every day.” 

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