Noah Sandstrom, associate professor of psychology and chair of the Athletics Committee, and Alison Swain ’01, head coach of women’s tennis, have recently spearheaded a reinvigoration and institutionalization of the Faculty Affiliate Program (FAP). The program, which has existed since the 2005-06 school year, seeks to connect faculty members with athletic teams. However, Sandstrom added that “participation in [FAP] has waned.”
“We believe this [program] can have several meaningful consequences,” Sandstrom said. “For example, faculty can have a window into the extracurricular lives of their students, which may help them connect with them in the classroom.” A handful of varsity athletic teams have had successful relationships with faculty advisors for several years. A prime example, according to Sandstrom, is the women’s tennis team for which Assistant Professor of Computer Science Brent Heeringa serves as the faculty affiliate. Heeringa’s support for women’s tennis included attendance at home and away games, team dinners and even a few team practices. “It struck me as a wonderful dynamic,” Sandstrom said.
In previous years, a major problem with the program was that some faculty advisors were unsure of their duties as affiliates. But with additional support from the Dean of Faculty’s office, FAP has been rejuvenated. “[FAP] now has two lunches a semester [sponsored by the Dean of Faculty’s office] where we sit and talk about issues that have come up and new and different ways to foster involvement between the academic and athletic pieces of these students’ lives,” Swain said.
Additionally, it has been suggested that affiliates can provide informal academic advising to their teams and talk with visiting recruits about the academic experience at the College. These conversations about successful relationships have helped coaches work out how to better integrate the affiliates into their teams. “A lot of the faculty involved in [FAP] devote a lot of time to the students on the teams … [but do not] necessarily get recognition for their work,” Swain said.
Now, faculty affiliates are listed on each team’s roster. “The majors of upperclassmen have also been added [in order to] show that these student-athletes are students first,” Swain said.
Based on the latest conversations between student-athletes and faculty advisors, “more teams are interested in establishing and cultivating these relationships,” Sandstrom said. “Some individuals seem to have the perception that the academic and athletic worlds should necessarily be separate. But this program, I believe, demonstrates that these worlds can overlap in mutually beneficial and supportive ways.”
Currently, 19 varsity teams at the College have a relationship with a faculty affiliate. “Before expanding the program, we wanted to work with the existing affiliates to better define the program, define our goals and figure out ways to best involve affiliates with teams,” Sandstrom said.
The present focus is on varsity teams, “but it is important to understand that there is no reason why other teams – intramural or club – can’t contact a faculty member – or a faculty member can’t contact a club team – and become involved in these types of ways,” Sandstrom said. FAP has also published its first newsletter and hopes to publish two to three annually in order to show what faculty affiliates have done with their teams.
FAP’s mission and purpose have largely remained the same, but there has been a “renewed sense of enthusiasm and appreciation for the benefits that can some from this type of collaboration between athletics and academics,” Sandstrom said.