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Profs and students try to find academic balance for 100 sanctioned events this fall

Falcon News Service

November 29, 2017

Jason Caballero stands during the national anthem before a game between UWRF and LaCrosse at Ramer Field at David Smith Stadium, Nov. 11. Photo by Tori Schneider/University Communications

Student-athletes are expected to travel a lot during their individual seasons, with packed schedules being accompanied by early dismissals from classes for road games. Jason Caballero is a senior history and broad field social studies major. Caballero has been on the football team for four years and has gone to away games in South Dakota, Missouri and Texas with his teammates. However, missing classes can present a variety of challenges.

“We took three trips on Friday this year,” Caballero said. “I have an education class from 2-5 p.m. on Fridays, so the teacher sets it up that you’re responsible, and he’s trusting that I will get caught back up.”

Caballero made up for this by doing the lesson plan with a fellow student on his team as they were traveling on the bus. As he’s gotten older, he’s learned to take advantage of bus rides or flights to catch up on the necessary homework for the amount of time he has to miss.

It is difficult for professors to constantly be receiving news about athletes or students having to miss class for games or educational conferences, but Caballero said there is an important way to make the situation work.

“It’s about the student-professor relationship,” Caballero said. “Time management is crucial, and establishing yourself as a good student will affect how teachers feel.”

University-sanctioned events are defined as, “Any extracurricular event (educational field trips or conferences, theatrical performances, intercollegiate athletic contests, musical performances or tours) as approved by the sponsoring Department and the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs or designee,” according to the university-sponsored off-campus activities page on uwrf.edu.

These events are usually planned out months in advance and require approval and the names of all students attending before they are excused for being absent. According to Wesley Chapin, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies, there were around 100 university-sanctioned events approved for the fall semester. The policy is especially clear on the fact that students will not be penalized for attending university-sanctioned events.

Matt Kortbein, a junior crops and soil science major, recently won first place in the national Students of Agronomy, Soils and Environmental Sciences 2017 speech contest in Tampa, Fla. This was part of an event that 16 UWRF students attended in October for the 2017 International Annual Meeting: “Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future.”

Kortbein has been on about 10 university-sanctioned trips in his time with the College Farm Bureau and the UWRF soil judging team. He said there is valuable experience that can be found outside of the classroom on these trips.

“It gives me an array of activities to solidify what I learned in the classroom,” Kortbein said. “It also helps to network with professionals and create a better relationship with my professors.”

Presenting research and working alongside professors on these projects have been some of his most rewarding experiences at UWRF, according to Kortbein.

“It helps you realize the value of what you can get off campus,” Kortbein said. “It helps me understand things better and have more direction for after school.”

If these types of events weren’t university-sanctioned, opportunities like Kortbein’s wouldn’t be possible. Kortbein pointed out that learning in the classroom is important, but going to school at a university is about preparing one’s self for time after college. Faye Perkins, the interim provost at UWRF, also believes strongly in this concept.

“Some people call them extra-curricular activities. I would call them co-curricular,” Perkins said. “They combine with your academic curriculum to become a successful student and graduate.”

Perkins said there are networking and educational reinforcement that occur at conferences and events.

“It can really kind of take you to the next level,” Perkins said. “It can give you opportunities that you would never get by staying on campus. More and more businesses are looking for graduates that can be part of a team, whether it be athletics or judging or a forensics team. It’s going to make you more marketable when you graduate.”

Perkins also stressed communication and time management as skills that are necessary to make this process work. Giving teachers multiple weeks’ notice is essential for giving them a chance to give the student any additional assistance for what they will miss.

“It’s the student’s responsibility to make up their work,” Perkins said. “Any problems can be alleviated by early communication.”

Perkins believes the policy is very thorough and well thought out, with keys being the fact that events can’t be within a week of finals week and notice should be given a week in advance. However, problems can arise if students don’t take their own schedules into account.

“Some students overcommit themselves,” Perkins said. “They miss too many classes, and there’s natural consequences. You have to balance that. Hopefully these experiences are adding to your academic experience and not taking away from it.”

Perkins doesn’t see the system being changed, because the system varies so greatly from student to student. Abigail Jackson, a new assistant professor in the psychology department, also thinks it’s the student’s responsibility to make sure they stay caught up.

“Students can make that decision for themselves for how much they can miss,” Jackson said. “Then they can weigh the option of going to (the event).”

This approach allows the students to act like adults and be responsible for their own time. Jackson has over 100 students, and said she can’t be expected to keep all of their schedules straight.

“My responsibility is for marking you excused,” Jackson said. “So far my students have been pretty good about finding out what they’ve missed.”

Caballero said that telling teachers early, and being there for class week-in and week-out will show how committed you are at being a well-rounded student.

“Coach (Matt) Walker preaches about getting your assignments done and doing the right thing,” Caballero said. “Be a decent kid to the professor, because the way you present yourself on the first couple of days is how they view you. Those words run through my head even into my senior year.”

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