University of Maryland student athletes are again proving that they not only have the brawn, they have the brains, too.
Spring 2016 was the first semester in at least seven years that student athletes at this university earned a collective GPA greater than a 3.0, according to a report by the Academic Support & Career Development Unit. The spring 2016 GPA was 3.093.
“We’ve made our mark athletically … from an academic standpoint it was great to hit that 3.0,” said Chris Uchacz, the associate athletics director and director of the Academic Support & Career Development Unit.
Former Maryland women’s basketball center Malina Howard would know, since she made the public health school’s Dean’s List every semester except for spring 2016, which was her last.
“Since I’ve gotten here, we’ve created a culture of student being first and athlete being second,” said Howard, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in kinesiology. “But we’ve done a great job of being able to balance the two — obviously, with the success we’ve had in the [basketball] program.”
For Howard, balancing schoolwork and athletics meant meeting with the Academic Support & Career Development Unit’s associate director, Heather Arianna, at least three times a week and making sure her classes fit around her noon to 3:30 p.m. practice schedule.
“A lot of it is just coming in and being very disciplined,” Howard said.
That discipline began Howard’s freshman year, when she had eight hours of tutoring each week, which she said is a requirement for freshmen on the women’s basketball team that varies based on grades as students progress.
Howard completed her major requirements in spring 2015 and has been preparing for the MCAT exam in classes since then. She graduated from the university with a 3.709 GPA and plans to go to medical school.
Of the 485 student athletes, 56 percent earned a GPA higher than the benchmark 3.0. Fifteen of those student athletes earned a 4.0, and more than 100 were named on their college’s Dean’s Lists, according to the report.
“Having that support system just made it a lot easier,” Howard said.
A lot of that support came from Arianna, who introduced Howard to people who had similar experiences balancing athletics and academics, she said.
“Just having people who have done it before me was really big … being able to take their advice and learn from it,” Howard said.
Student athletes’ average GPA has stood around 2.9 for the past seven years, Uchacz said. The GPA accounts for all 20 varsity sponsored sports at this university and is averaged each semester.
“Basically what that’s telling you is that we have a serious academic institution,” Uchacz said.
Since she graduated, Howard said she plays basketball recreationally and plans to start a job at this university in the fall. She will be a Big Ten fellow in the Athletic Department’s Lifeskills Programming office.
“You get the opportunity to come to a wonderful school and get a degree,” Howard said. “You have to make sure that you take that seriously — because your sport’s only gonna last so long.”