An exciting month at SMSU

May brings to closure an exciting month on campus as the hard work and accomplishments of our students culminate at Commencement. This spring 555 students where eligible to walk across the stage as part of the annual celebration. While graduation marks a significant milestone on campus, student engagement and learning continues throughout the summer.

One particular group of students that deserves recognition is our SMSU Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC). The SAAC is comprised of student-athletes who provide insight on the student-athlete experience. The SAAC also offers input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect the lives of student-athletes at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member institution campuses. The mission of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is to enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting student-athlete welfare, and fostering a positive student-athlete image.

For the past several years I have served on the NCAA Division II Presidents Council, a group of 16 presidents chosen from Division II institutions around the United States, whose charge is to set the strategic direction for the division in all areas. On the Presidents Council we listen carefully to SAAC leaders for their insights and feedback on the student-athlete experience.

If you have attended any Mustang events over the course of the year, you were sure to see some of the great initiatives promoted by SMSU student-athlete. Mental Health Awareness; It’s A Slam Drunk — Don’t Drive Drunk; It’s On Us – Sexual Assault Awareness; and Make A Wish support are all programs that were initiated and are led by our student-athletes and others across the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).

This past week, four outstanding student-athletes, along with SMSU Assistant Athletic Director, Allison Monson and Athletic Development Graduate Assistant, Ty Dennis, attended the NSIC SAAC Summit on the campus of Northern State University. Softball student-athletes Kaylee Hentges, Kaylea Van Regenmorter and Kali Tomlinson and football student-athlete Trey Sachs represented SMSU along with more than 70 other student athletes from across the NSIC. Athletics is often considered the front porch of the University and these students spent time networking and developing their leadership skills to prepare them for representing their teams and campuses while also helping develop important life skills.

These student leaders interacted with the NSIC board of directors, acknowledged and honored the work of their peer institutions for this past year, and started work on a new SAAC Strategic Plan that will guide the student-athletes across the NSIC for the next few years.

So, although traditional classes may have come to a close for this academic year, it is rewarding to see the initiative and commitment of our students that continues throughout the spring and summer. Similar to our student-athletes involved in SAAC, many students will continue their educational and leadership journeys throughout the summer and across the globe before returning to campus in the fall.