A place for Gophers athletes to be students

The McNamara Academic Center began in 1983 for student-athletes.

Sam Kraemer

Balancing classes and athletics can be tough for student-athletes who are in the midst of their season.

But at the University of Minnesota, the McNamara Academic Center in the Bierman Field Athletic Building helps athletes with their academic work.

In October, it was announced that the University achieved a graduation success rate of 86 percent for student-athletes, which is indicative of the academic efforts of those who were enrolled from 2004-07.

The McNamara Academic Center offers a variety of services — from tutoring to quiet study space — for only student-athletes.

Carla Morton, one of the center’s academic counselors, said McNamara’s academic counselors work like the school’s academic advisers, but the job has differences due to its nature of catering only to student-athletes.

“We work closely with their academic advisers to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Morton said. “We assist with the travel, NCAA rules and all those things that come into play with student-athletes.”

And as teams travel across the country to compete in the now-expanded Big Ten, study and tutor sessions can be harder to come by.

“With the travel and being on the road for competition, we provide [support] that really works well with their schedules,” she said.

The McNamara Academic Center has an array of technology and space available, including individual study labs, a computer lab and a classroom.

And its location inside Bierman Athletic Building provides a central location for the student-athletes seeking academic help so they can avoid trekking across campus to another location, Morton said. The center also offers class-specific help and writing assistance.

Though studying at it isn’t a requirement for all student-athletes, Morton said, its services are recommended for freshmen.

“For a majority of our first-year students, it’s suggested just because it really helps with the transition,” she said. “We want them to establish that balance right away.”

Junior tennis player Jessika Mozia said she enjoys using the center to focus and avoid distractions.

“It’s easier to get distracted at home with TVs,” she said. “When I go there, I know I can get work done.”

Center staff members make sure the student-athletes are working on their homework.

“They have monitors that walk the study areas and make you put your phone away or get off Facebook to keep you focused,” Mozia said. “Personally, I like it a lot, though sometimes it can get crowded after practices.”

Hannah Tapp, a sophomore middle blocker on the volleyball team, said she appreciates having the center as an academic resource.

“Just having that individualized tutoring is really nice,” Tapp said, “especially if you need to focus.”

All freshmen on the volleyball team are required to log six hours, but that number may vary for other teams at the University. The volleyball team achieved a perfect graduation success rate for the 2013-14 academic year.

“It takes stress away knowing we always have a study space to go to,” Tapp said.