The Big Ten Conference recently announced its inaugural class of Distinguished Scholars, student-athletes who have lettered while earning no less than a 3.7 grade-point average for the previous academic year.
The honor goes one step further than the traditional Academic All-Conference designation.
"It's an exciting new award," said Russell Mushinsky, director of the Morgan Academic Support Center for Student Athletes, "This group particularly sets itself apart."
Of the 498 athletes honored throughout the conference, 62 of them were from Penn State, including several with District 6 roots.
Nathan Stupar, a former State College star, is a communications major on the Nittany Lion football squad, while teammate Josh Hull, a Penns Valley product, is pursuing a degree in environmental systems engineering. Also from Penns Valley, wrestler Nathan Andrews is studying mechanical engineering, while his teammate, All-American Jake Strayer, a stand-out wrestler at Forest Hills, just finished his kinesiology degree with honors on the mat and in the classroom.
Credit Penn State University with setting its academic standards so high in all of their sports, and for giving student-athletes the resources needed to make the most of their academic opportunities.
The Morgan Center provides a wide array of services, including programs to help freshmen make the transition from high school to college athletics and academics. Counseling, career planning and sports psychology are just a few of the other services available. However, Mushinsky does not give the Morgan Center full credit for the academic accolades.
"The campus in general is committed to supporting students," he says, "but in the athletic department, it's a team effort from the top down: student-athletes, coaches, administration and academic support."
Also credit the local students' parents, high school coaches and teachers for laying the proper foundation: there is more to life than athletic accomplishments.
You don't just learn good academic habits in college; you need to take a strong foundation to the university with you. Many of the values that have made these distinguished scholars so successful are lessons learned while playing high school sports.
"Our student-athletes are very committed to the academic part of the college athletic experience, and understand the commitment and balance necessary," said Mushinsky.
The Morgan Center certainly lends valuable resources for at-risk students, but the services are available and utilized by Penn State athletes across the board.
"Such a small fraction of athletes will go on to professional sports, and we want all of our student-athletes to be leaders when they leave Penn State," said Mushinsky.
Whether it's engineering, communications or kinesiology, it will be exciting to see what these Distinguished Scholars achieve next.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.