Updates from South Africa point to student-athlete experience

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With most of Notre Dame’s football team is assembled on campus for the beginning of summer workouts and classes, a group of the university’s student-athletes is experiencing life on another continent in the newly formed study abroad program.

While we mostly stick to football in these parts, we mentioned the abbreviated study abroad program that is allowing student-athletes to take part in a valuable student experience that has until now been unavailable to them because of their athletic commitments.

Well, we’ve gotten two updates from UND.com’s travel journals, and it appears that the experience is a memorable one. Courtesy of former ND basketball player Zach Hillesland, here are a couple of the greatest hits from the time in South Africa.

First, this piece on why the program exists in the first place, the brainchild of athletic director Jack Swarbrick, former basketball star Ruth Riley and international studies director Rosemary Max:

“Why can’t student-athletes have the full academic experience?”

That was the question swirling around campus that eventually led to the creation of a student-athlete study abroad program (the first of its kind for Notre Dame), a three-week trip combining study, service, physical training, and cultural exploration that’s currently taking place all over South Africa. The program is entitled, “Negative Attitudes: A Cultural, Historical, and Social Psychological Analysis of Racism in South Africa.”

The brainchild of Notre Dame vice president and athletics director Jack Swarbrick, former Irish women’s basketball star/current MBA candidate Ruth Riley and Notre Dame International Studies director Rosemary Max, the program has attracted 16 student-athletes from seven different varsity sports: football, volleyball, swimming and diving, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, fencing and golf.

The intention of the program was to produce a genuine study abroad experience for student-athletes, an experience they usually have to forgo due to their demanding schedules.

 

Next for some fun stuff. Before a safari trip to Kruger National Park, the student-athletes were asked to determine their “Spirit Animals.”

The group decided that Jaylon Smith was a leopard—laid back, but one of the wild’s most efficient hunters. Corey Robinson was an impala—bouncy, energetic, and surrounded by females. (Robinson also sounds like one of the trip’s MVPs, as he’s brought along a ukulele and an adventurous attitude.)  Jerry Tillery? He went with a hippo. Capable of lounging around in water, and also biting you in half.

(Tillery also has taken to campus life. As a first-semester freshman, he already organized a “Yoga & Yogurt” event in his dorm, explaining to Hillesland his thought process.

“Well, yoga was the first component, and then I just thought it could use an alliterative aspect.” Sounds like a smart kid.)

Both entries (Part One & Part Two) are worth reading, as the group explored the poverty stricken Kliptown orphanage, the Apartheid Museum, and will end their trip with two weeks in Capetown.

So as Swarbrick made waves a few weeks ago when he expressed his disinterest in any version of collegiate athletics that turn student-athletes into employees, opportunities like this—no small financial investment, it’s worth adding—show that Notre Dame is deeply committed to their scholarship athletes getting a full student experience.