Previously recognized by University Business in its Models of Excellence program, the Excellence at 7220 leadership development program for student-athletes at the University of Wyoming is continuing on a growth path.
Former University of Wyoming student-athletes initially requested the program—named for the school’s elevation—when practice and game schedules wouldn’t permit them to attend school-sponsored life skills and career building workshops. The athletic department began offering guest presentations and rÁ©sumÁ© building classes for freshmen to “fifth years.”
Evolution at the University of Wyoming
That broad program has since morphed into three electives, which will officially launch this summer. “UWYO 1050” for freshman focuses on academic success and includes a community service project; “UWYO 3000” for sophomores and juniors concentrates on leadership skills, with a community service element; and “UWYO 3050” for seniors and fifth years is centered around career prep.
The program’s purpose—providing leadership, wellness and life skills—remains the same, says Taylor Stuemky, assistant athletic director for student-athlete success for University of Wyoming Athletics. But student-athletes and a trend toward more age- and year-specific programming prompted a reboot, Stuemky says. A poll of the approximately 425 student-athletes found that rather than fitting program activities into their spare time, they preferred set classes. Students are busy, Stuemky says, so programming is streamlined into a classroom model that fits into their schedules.
All three of the eight-week, one-credit, pass-fail classes will be required for the 340 student-athletes on scholarship (and included in their tuition). The classes will be highly recommended for other student-athletes, and will be open to spirit team and club sport team members or other students.
“By the end of their career here, our student-athletes will be able to understand who they are and what their identity is,” Stuemky says. “They are going to have a rÁ©sumÁ© built and interview experience; they will have attended a job fair; and they are going to have a lot of life skills, having learned about mental health, nutrition, sexual-violence prevention, healthy relationships, bystander intervention and finances.”
Collaboration keeps the cost low as the athletic department partners with other campus resources—such as the career department—to help conduct lessons. Recently, career counselor Kirk Thiemann held a class on identity exploration and major selection for freshmen, for example. Stuemky serves as class facilitator and coordinator.
The athletic department has also partnered with online platform Game Plan to provide students with additional learning resources. Freshmen will have a checklist of online modules they must complete.
Game Plan will also help the athletic department create student-athlete profiles, which can be updated with internship information and post-graduation details, for tracking purposes. The profiles will help build alumni relationships as well, allowing the department to contact graduates to serve as speakers or to develop internship opportunities.
Make an impact
For other higher ed institutions interested in launching a similar program, Stuemky says be intentional for your audience and identify their needs. “The more other schools can do that, the more impact they’re going to have,” she says.
The Models of Excellence program, which launched in 2015, recognized 64 innovative student success programs through 2017.