NEW VCUCONNECT PROGRAM AIMS TO SUPPORT STUDENT-ATHLETES IN THE WORKING WORLD

Being a student-athlete at a Division I university can be stressful.  After a full slate of classes, they devote hours to training and practicing before packing a bag and heading off for competition.  Homework gets completed under the haze of muted bus lights, and studying happens once the equipment gets put away for the day.

They all go for it with an end-goal in mind—the hard work today will pay off tomorrow.  They may want to make a career out of their athletic skill or from whatever degree they earn while in school, but they all want to become successful professionals once their time in college is up.

But with all their daily responsibilities, it can be difficult to make time for developing professional skills and finding internships.  That is where the new VCUConnect program comes into play.

VCUConnect is a new program at VCU dedicated to student-athlete development through professional skills and internship & job placement.  New Director of Student-Athlete Development Bo Greenwood has hopes that this program will make the VCU experience even more valuable for student-athletes.

“The main goal of the program is to help our athletes graduate with more than a piece of paper and four years of collegiate athletic experience,” Greenwood says.  “We want them to be armed with a set of skills and a network that enables them to nail down great employment opportunities and make a difference in their lives.”

The program will be two-fold for the student-athletes.  First, bi-weekly sessions will be conducted for student-athletes to hone their professional skills and discuss relevant topics of the professional world.  Second, VCUConnect will partner with several local businesses to create a network of opportunities for possible internships and jobs.

“By strategically partnering with area organizations, we can provide valuable experiential learning opportunities for our student-athletes,” Greenwood points out.  “Through these partnerships, students will be able to begin to establish or significantly expand their existing networks, and can also get practical work experience that helps inform their career decisions."

An idea for such a program came out of an organizational belief that student-athletes need more support services.  In its first year, Greenwood hopes to create connections between athletes and organizations in their chosen professions.  Over the next few years, the department hopes to grow the program in such a way that brings in former athletes to help network with current athletes.

“Above anyone else, they know how intimidating it can be to transition to life after athletics,” Greenwood said.

He knows this as well as anyone else, having been a part of the swim team at UVA from 2001-2005.  He knows the lifelong value that being a student-athlete can have, particularly in the connections made and the lessons learned.

“The overall experience at Virginia made me want to spend my life working to enable future generations of athletes to have similar, wholly positive experiences as a collegiate athlete,” he acknowledges.  “I believe in what collegiate athletics provides for young people, and I want to continue to be a part of that for their benefit."

As the program takes shape and grows, there is little doubt that this and future generations of VCU athletes will see positive benefits from VCUConnect whether they go pro in sports or something else.

If you're a local business and are interested in getting involved with the VCUConnect program, call Bo Greenwood at 804-827-3544 or email him at cggreenwood@vcu.edu.

Written by Devon Howard, VCU Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant

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