Competitors at the collegiate level are often called “student-athletes,” but the balance between the two can be hard for many students to maintain. At a Division III school, where students are not offered scholarship based on athletic abilities, the institution explicitly places a focus on academics.
While Rose-Hulman has been recognized for its academic accomplishments year after year, after fall quarter, 99 student-athletes for Fightin’ Engineer teams have found a way to perfect the balancing act.
Once their fall seasons drew to a close, senior Anna Lewer, junior Drew Belk, and sophomore Nick Buchta were selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) to be honored as Academic All-Americans.
Lewer, who captained the volleyball team during its successful run in HCAC action this year, has maintained a 3.70 GPA as a biomedical engineering student. Belk helped lead the soccer team to a regular season co-championship while earning a 3.74 GPA in his electrical engineering studies. Buchta fought hard on the offensive line while the football team finished its program-best eighth straight season at .500 or above, and his efforts in the classroom led him to a 4.0 GPA in mechanical engineering.
Athletes are nominated to CoSIDA by the sports information office based on their ability to be selected for the honor. To earn the accolade, a student-athlete must be “a key contributor to their athletic team’s success” and must have a minimum 3.3 GPA.
While the criteria seem vague, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information & Communications Kevin Lanke says the process is so competitive that students are rarely considered without at least a 3.70 GPA and typically have been selected to all-region or All-American teams for their athletic accomplishments.
Lanke adds that, due to the short list of explicit requirements, the process is very subjective.
“Each sports information director in NCAA Division III receives a ballot and votes for their ‘best of the best’ based on whatever criteria that sports information director determines,” Lanke says, adding that often the academic reputation of the students’ school frequently makes an impact.
“A high percentage of the Academic All-America selections are either from top engineering institutions or are engineering majors at other institutions. I think most sports information directors have a great deal of respect for the work it takes to major in engineering.”
Recent Fightin’ Engineer honorees agree that a high-class academic institution fosters a space for athletes to shine both on and off the court.
“Rose instills hard work, leadership, time management, and a little bit of craziness which translates into excellent performance in all aspects of students’ lives,” Lewer said, crediting previous upperclassmen as excellent tutors and role models for her younger self.
While introducing extracurricular activities in an already loaded schedule can have adverse effects on many students’ success, Lewer and Buchta agreed that a full-time commitment to their respective teams helped them focus their free time and stay organized.
And it’s clear that an environment like Rose-Hulman is perfect for a student looking to make an impact in the athletic realm. In each of the past 27 years, Rose has had at least one Academic All-American, a streak which leads all Division II and Division III institutions and follows just five Division I schools. Nebraska tops the list with an active streak of 42 years with at least one Academic All-American, and all five include engineering programs.
Honoring both facets of a student-athlete’s time, Buchta added that the streak of honors is “a real testament to the diversity and character of the students who go here.” In addition to managing the workload Rose-Hulman requires, he said the ability for so many to be athletically competitive “defies a lot of the stereotypes about engineering students.”
With 99 Academic All-Americans under its belt, Rose-Hulman could cross the century mark in the winter or spring seasons. Senior Liz Evans, reigning Division III high jump champion, has been named an Academic All-American the past two years.
Agreeing with Buchta’s sentiment that the honor says a lot about Rose-Hulman students who persevere “through the rigors of Rose,” Evans added that the streak is “just one of the many accolades of our student body over generations.”