The Establishment of the UW Student-Athlete Academic Services Program
Andrea B. Griggs
History of American Higher Education
Fall Quarter 2006
In the book, Student Services for Athletes, Mary F. Howard-Hamilton and Sherry K. Watt discuss the issues affecting college athletes and how academic support programs for student-athletes can respond to those needs effectively. In arguing that playing an intercollegiate sport adds an unexpectedly complex layer to student life, Howard-Hamilton and Watt explain that in addition to the daily student routine of attending classes, completing homework, and participating in social events, student-athletes have the added responsibilities of practicing every day, visiting the athletic trainer, traveling and competing, and studying team plays (pg. 7). According to Howard-Hamilton and Watt, “Student athletes are a diverse special population because of their roles on campus, their atypical lifestyles, and their special needs. They all face huge time commitments, physically grueling workouts, a high-profile existence, and demanding expectations. The combination of academic and athletic requirements can cause incredible strain” (pg. 19). In light of these unique challenges faced by student-athletes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association membership passed legislation in 1991 requiring all institutions to provide academic support services to all student-athletes. The athletic department at the University of Washington was ahead of the rest of the nation in recognizing the need for academic support services for student-athletes. This research paper focuses on the establishment of the Student-Athlete Academic Services (SAAS) program at the University of Washington.
I was raised in an environment where two things were highly valued: Education and Sports. My father, who played college basketball during his undergraduate career, found a way to combine his passion for both education and sports and has worked with student-athletes for over thirty years at Oregon State University. My father has taught me about the challenges that student-athletes must overcome in their attempt toward successful degree completion. I have also seen the positive impact academic support services can have on the lives of student-athletes who are unfortunately often seen as athletes first and as students second.
Growing up my father’s passion for both education and sports quickly became my own. This passion combined with my desire to help university students of color succeed academically has led to my current employment with the Student-Athlete Academic Services program at the University of Washington. During my first day on the job, I received a tour of the facilities from Pam Robenolt, who is the Assistant Director of the program. During the tour we came across a framed picture of the program’s founder, Ms. Gertrude Peoples, and I was given a brief overview on the establishment of the program. This brief and incomplete overview peaked my interest and I resolved to find out more information on this interesting topic. A few days later I found out that I would be asked to engage in historical research on an aspect of the University of Washington for this class. I quickly knew that my research topic would be the establishment of the Student-Athlete Academic Services program.
In researching the establishment of the Student-Athlete Academic Services program I wanted to focus on the following questions: Why was this program created and what major events led to the establishment of the program? In an attempt to understand the development of SAAS, the following questions also needed to be answered: What was the establishment process? Who initiated the creation of this program? What was the overall response to the establishment of the program? Who funded the establishment of SAAS? How was SAAS structured in the beginning? Were there any similar programs in existence at other universities during the time this program was established? I had also heard from various sources that SAAS was established in response to racism on the football team involving Coach Owens in the late 1960’s. I wanted to find out if this was true, and if so, what was the relationship between racism on the football team and the establishment of SAAS?
Events that Led to the Establishment of SAAS
In order to understand why Student-Athlete Academic Services was established, it is imperative that one begins by examining some of the events and issues that were occurring during the years leading up to the program’s establishment, specifically reviewing the events involving the University of Washington football team and the Black Student Union (BSU). During the 1960’s, African-Americans across the nation were working collectively toward the advancement of civil rights and inclusion of Blacks in major U.S. institutions, including the higher education system. In the book A History of American Higher Education, John Thelin argues that during the 1950’s and 60’s, concerns about race were incidental at almost all colleges and universities in the United States (pg. 305). Thus, African-Americans were forced to call attention to the lack of inclusion of Blacks in U.S. institutions of higher education. In the mid to late 1960’s, the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party began to recruit students at the University of Washington, and in December of 1967, members of both the University of Washington Student Afro-American Society and the UW Chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee attended a conference in San Francisco sponsored by the Black Panther Party. By the end of the conference the two groups had merged, and by January of 1968 became the University of Washington Black Student Union (“A White University”, 1969; Bayless, 2004). The members of the BSU were young, militant, and dedicated to making changes in university programs and practices, with a specific focus on the recruitment of African-American students and faculty at UW. In the paper, Boycott in Context: 1969 Black Student Athlete Protest at the University of Washington, Carrie Bayless argues that the University of Washington campus served as a central location for African-American students and members of the surrounding communities to gather and demonstrate around political issues (pg. 6). One of the main issues of concern by the UW Black Student Union and the Seattle African-American community was the alleged racial discrimination of African-American football players by the head football coach Jim Owens.
In the chapter Success and Excess: Expansion and Reforms in Higher Education, 1920 to 1945, Thelin argues that one downside to the popularity of intercollegiate sports in the U.S. is that ambitious coaches and athletic department staff can often stretch the limits of acceptable practices (pg. 209). However, these abuses are often acknowledged and challenged. With the support of the UW Black Student Union, numerous African-American football players stepped forward to denounce existing racism by the football staff during the late 1960’s. In March of 1968, fourteen African-American UW football players issued a joint statement citing discrimination by the University of Washington athletic department, and called for the dismissal of an athletic trainer, the hiring of a Black coach or administrator, and a review of all department coaches (“Racial Situation at UW Discussed”, 1968; “A White University?”, 1969; Bayless, 2004). Of particular concern was the coaching practice of “stacking”, where coaches would assign certain positions to African-American players while closing other positions. Thus, Black athletes competed against each other for a few starting spots, while other available spots were saved for White players. The practice of stacking ensured White numerical dominance on the playing field, while at the same time encouraging popular notions of racial equality in athletics (Bayless, 2004).
Protest by the Black Student Union and members of the Seattle Black community forced university administrators to listen to the concerns of the African-American football players, resulting in the formation of a faculty committee who investigated the accusations made by Black football players. It was later reported that the faculty committee had found “instances of racial prejudice and discrimination in the athletic department” (“A White University”, 1969; Bayless, 2004). University administrators responded to the report and suggested that the athletic department hire a Black assistant football coach. Soon thereafter, Carver Gayton was hired as the first full-time Black assistant football coach at the University of Washington.
Other allegations of racism by Coach Owens included differential treatment of players based upon race. For example, African-American football players were reportedly punished differently than their White teammates, with Black players given harsher punishments. When four Black football players were suspended by Coach Owens for allegedly being unable to express 100 percent commitment to the Husky football team, members of the BSU and Seattle Black community joined in protest. On Friday November 1st, 1969, a crowd of about 150 individuals surrounded the bus and encouraged the remaining eight Black players and Coach Gayton to stay behind in Seattle instead of traveling with the team to the UCLA game (Bayless, 2004). After the weekend of the UCLA game, the situation became more heated as legal counsel was called in for the four suspended players, numerous Black activist groups sought the dismissal of Coach Owens, and the terrifying event when four individuals physically attacked Coach Owens’ 17-year-older daughter. On Friday November 7th, 1969, Coach Owens reviewed the suspensions of the four Black athletes and decided to reinstate three of the four players (Bayless, 2004).
According to Bayless, these events hurt the Husky recruiting efforts. The Black Athlete Alumni Club stated that they would no longer assist in recruitment efforts as long as Owens remained head coach. The BSU and other Black organizations in the Seattle area vowed to discourage Black students from joining or playing for the UW football team. It was also concluded at the time that the UW football team would have difficulties recruiting White athletes as well because many prospective recruits would rather enroll in an institution that was not regarded as racist by Blacks. In the book The American College and University: A History, Frederick Rudolph argues that throughout the history of organized athletics in American colleges and universities, students and alumni have taken an active role in the world of competitive sports, often assisting with funding, recruitment, and providing an enthusiastic fan base (pg. 382). However, as the situation at the University of Washington illustrates, angry students and alumni can also disrupt the effective practices of an athletic team as well.
The University of Washington administrators and athletic department saw the disruption in recruitment practices as a serious problem. According to the Athletic Director at the time, Joe Kearney, “We’re going to do everything we can to solve the problem and recruit black athletes” (Bayless, 2004). Actions taken to resolve the matter included the appointment of a committee to develop procedures for player discipline and identify roles and responsibilities of coaching staff. Within her concluding discussion in the paper, Boycott in Context: 1969 Black Student Athlete Protest at the University of Washington, Bayless argues that one of the direct results of the athletic revolt at the University of Washington was the establishment of the Student-Athlete Academic Services program (pg. 22). In an attempt to support current Black football players and successfully recruit future players, SAAS was born.
The Recognized Need for Academic Assistance and the Birth of SAAS
While the athletic revolt and protests by the Black Student Union and members of the Seattle African-American community played a large role in the formation of the Student-Athlete Academic Services program, other events also influenced the establishment of SAAS. During the late 1960’s, former assistant football coach Ray Jackson began sending many of his African-American players for academic advising to Ms. Gertrude Peoples, who worked as an advisor for the Black Student Division within the Office of Minority Affairs (“Gertrude Peoples”, 1998; Peoples, auditory response, 2006). Two years later, when the volume and frequency of visits by student athletes increased, the newly hired Assistant Athletic Director, Don Smith initiated the establishment of SAAS by urging the Athletic Director, Joe Kearney to offer Peoples a job working solely with student-athletes (“Gertrude Peoples”, 1998; Peoples, auditory response, 2006). When Kearney offered Peoples the opportunity to establish SAAS and serve as program director, she gladly accepted the offer acknowledging that student-athletes, especially student-athletes of color, were in need of extra academic assistance, as many of them did not enter college with the skills needed to be academically successful. Also at this time, African-American student-athletes had higher drop out rates than White student-athletes, a problem Peoples attributes to a system of “special admissions” practices that would allow Black athletes to enter the university with lower GPAs and test scores, but would expect that those same athletes would be as academically successful as those students who met higher admissions standards (Peoples, auditory response, 2006). When asked why she was selected to serve as director of the program, Peoples responded that she felt her selection was based upon the fact that she was a Black woman who had already established a connection with many of the Black athletes on campus. Many of the Black student-athletes saw Peoples as a mother figure; someone away from home that they could turn to for academic and personal support. This recognized need that student-athletes, especially student-athletes of color, required academic assistance in their attempt toward successful degree completion also played a role in the development of SAAS (Peoples, auditory response, 2006).
Student-Athlete Academic Services, originally titled Student-Athlete Services until the early 1990’s, was established in 1971. Before the establishment of SAAS, student-athletes sought academic advising from the general undergraduate advising center at the University of Washington. However, academic advising provided by the general advising center did not take into consideration the unique needs of student-athletes, for example time restraints that left student-athletes in need of advising that was held outside of the regular advising hours of 9am to 5pm (Post, auditory response, 2006). Nor were many of the general academic advisors familiar with the cultures, especially the culture present within predominately African-American communities, that many of the Black student-athletes came from. At the time of SAAS’s creation, there were no other programs in the country that were a part of the athletic department and specifically supported the academic needs of student-athletes (Peoples, auditory response, 2006; Post, auditory response, 2006). However, around 1975 academic support programs for student-athletes began to be established all over the nation, as universities and colleges began to realize that student-athletes require support programs that acknowledge their unique needs and challenges.
In the beginning Peoples’ goal was to, “create a non-segregated academic program that would meet the needs of student-athletes from every sport in three primary areas: personalized academic counseling, pre-registration, and tutoring” (“Gertrude Peoples”, 1998). Given little guidance, support, or funds, Peoples took on full responsibility of shaping the program. The only concern the athletic department had was that student-athletes received academic assistance in an environment where they felt comfortable.
During the first few years of establishment, SAAS consisted primarily of academic advising services and study table sessions that specific students, mostly football and basketball players, were required to attend in the evenings. A study table is a structured learning environment geared toward helping students learn skills that will increase academic success. During a study table session, students were assigned to small groups that were led by a tutor. Time management, motivation, study skills, and assistance with course work were emphasized (“Tutorial Services”, 1972). From the beginning of the program, both White and student-athletes of color received the services provided by SAAS. During the program’s first few years of existence, Gertrude Peoples was the only full-time staff member serving these students, with help from a few tutors. A few years later, when other teams began sending students to SAAS for assistance, Gertrude requested additional funds from the athletic department in order to hire a part-time assistant and about twenty tutors who would help during study table sessions. According to Peoples, “Permanent staff members were not hired until the early 1980’s” (Peoples, auditory response, 2006). Due to the limited resources at the program’s disposal, student-athletes were given the option to seek academic support from the general services offered to the rest of the student body. However, many student-athletes continued to seek the services provided by SAAS because they felt that they were understood and warmly received there.
At the time of SAAS’s establishment, there was a belief that the full benefit of a university education can only be experienced when both academic and athletic excellence are emphasized. From the beginning, SAAS’s goals included striving to motivate student-athletes towards scholastic balance as well as academic success, assisting in student acquisition of not only formal knowledge, but practical self-management skills, and increasing student self-confidence to succeed in the professional world after college. According to the first SAAS program guide published, “Our immediate goal at SAS is to make the student athlete’s university experience more personal, manageable, and rewarding, while our compatible long term goal is to cultivate valuable self-management skills and achievement attitudes that will last a lifetime” (“Program Handbook”, 1972, pg. 1). Gertrude Peoples realized that a very small percent of student-athletes would ever make it to the professional sports arena, and thus was on a mission to prepare student-athletes for success in the real world after graduation.
Response to Program by UW Community
After the controversy involving racism by Coach Owens and the protests by the Black Student Union and other members of the Seattle African-American community, President Odegaard, other university administrators, the athletic department, and football staff were eager to show that the University of Washington was a place that supported the athletic and academic pursuits of a diverse student body. The establishment of SAAS was supported by the majority of the university community, especially President Odegaard. Head football coach Jim Owens was also very supportive of the establishment of SAAS, claiming that he wanted Black student-athletes to feel comfortable at the University of Washington. During his time as head coach, Owens often used the services provided by SAAS to attract African-American football recruits (Peoples, auditory response, 2006).
The response by university faculty varied from the overall positive response by the rest of the university community. According to Peoples, the majority of faculty were very supportive of SAAS and acknowledged the fact that many student-athletes, especially student-athletes of color, needed and deserved extra assistance in their attempt toward successful degree completion (Peoples, auditory response, 2006). However, there were some professors who held elitist attitudes and felt and behaved as though student-athletes, especially those athletes that entered the university through the “special admissions” system, did not deserve any special assistance. Peoples was very thankful that the number of professors who viewed SAAS in a negative light was small, and argues that the majority of professors were very helpful and contributed to the success of the program (Peoples, auditory response, 2006).
The Founder of SAAS, Ms.Gertrude Peoples
An analysis on the establishment of the Student-Athlete Academic Services program at the University of Washington would be incomplete without discussing Gertrude Peoples and the impact she had on the number of students and staff she worked with over the years. Before Peoples joined the University of Washington community, she worked as a teacher and then for the United Intercity Development program, assisting small minority businesses. After leaving this agency, she began working as an academic advisor for the Black Student Division within the University of Washington’s Office of Minority Affairs. Then, in 1971 she joined the UW Athletic Department and began serving as director of the Student-Athlete Academic Services program; a position she held until 1995. In 1995 Peoples was reassigned to become Director of External Affairs and Community Relations, a reassignment that was welcomed by Peoples who admits that she was burnt out and did not have the academic credentials that directors from similar programs across the nation had. Peoples approved of her reassignment because she understood that for SAAS to be given the prestige it deserved, it needed to have a director with higher educational attainment (Peoples, auditory response, 2006). Later on Peoples became Senior Counselor and Special Assistant to Alumni Relations, a position she holds today.
It is also important to mention Peoples’ role throughout the years as a recruiter for University of Washington athletics. During her time as director of SAAS, Peoples traveled all over the U.S. visiting possible football, baseball, basketball, track, and wrestling recruits, promoting the excellent counseling and tutorial programs available for student-athletes at the UW. Peoples would also tell prospective students about the Seattle community, weather, and the prestige of the University of Washington (“Rah! Gertrude!”, 1974; Peoples, auditory response, 2006). Since the development of SAAS, the UW athletic department has used the success of the program to attract prospective student-athletes and their parents.
More important than the positions Peoples has held is the impact she has had on the lives of the students and staff members that she has worked with. Gertrude Peoples has served as a mom away from home for many student-athletes throughout her time working for the UW athletic department. She also has and continues to serve as a friend, a guiding light, a source of support, and a shoulder to cry on. Some of the ways in which she has been described by those fortunate to have worked with her include: “Gertrude has been the heart and soul of the Husky Football operations for decades”, “Gertrude is a living legend and those whose lives she touched will forever feel indebted to her” (“Gertrude Peoples: Grandmother to the Dawgs”, 2004). Despite the numerous awards and honors Peoples has received over the years, such as the Lan Hewlett Award for Outstanding Performance as an Academic Advisor for Athletics she received in 1991, or being inducted into the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Honor Society, Gertrude Peoples remains one of the most humble and generous people. Despite the years of labor that followed the establishment of SAAS, which countless athletic programs across the nation have based their academic support programs on, Gertrude insists that numerous individuals are responsible for SAAS’s success; that it was really a team effort (“Gertrude Peoples”, 1998).
Serving between 650 and 700 student-athletes from twenty-three different athletic teams today, the Student-Athlete Academic Services program has evolved and expanded during its thirty-five years of existence. As mentioned before, during the first few years of the program, it was under funded and understaffed. Over the years SAAS’s budget has grown, allowing the program to increase the number of full-time staff members to include academic advisors, academic coordinators, a learning specialist, a tutoring coordinator, administrative assistants, a compliance team, a large tutor base, student assistants, and individuals that specialize in the areas of financial aid, nutrition, eligibility, admissions, and life skills.
The current academic performance of student-athletes at the University of Washington is quite impressive. Despite the demands of practice, travel, and competition, student-athletes at the UW maintain a grade point average virtually the same as non-athletes. During the 2005 Winter Quarter, the average undergraduate student GPA was 3.18 while the average GPA for student-athletes was 3.06. Also, graduation rates of UW football players are ten percent above the national Division I university average (“Statistics on UW Student-Athlete Academic Performance”, 2005). While SAAS continues to produce impressive results, there is still room for improvement. According to Rob Post, Assistant Director of Counseling for SAAS, “SAAS needs to improve programming that focuses on the student-athlete transition out of college” (Post, auditory response, 2006). This type of program would focus on applying to graduate school, career preparation, job interviewing skills, resume workshops, professional internships, etc. SAAS does recognize this need and is currently looking for someone to fill the Life Skills Coordinator position.
Discussion on Findings
The central question that guided my research for this paper was, why was Student-Athlete Academic Services established, with a focus on the events that led to the program’s establishment. Before I began my research, I had formed the hypothesis that the racism on the football team involving Coach Owens during the late 1960’s was connected in some way to the development of SAAS. Through conducting interviews, and reading newspaper articles and papers written on the racism involving Coach Owens, I found sufficient information that supports my hypothesis. However, through engaging in research I also became aware of other events that influenced the establishment of SAAS, such as the protests by the Black Student Union and members of the Seattle African-American community, and the recognized need that many student-athletes, especially student-athletes of color, needed extra academic assistance.
In researching my topic I also wanted to find out about the establishment process, with a focus on who initiated the creation of the program, the overall response to the establishment of SAAS, and characteristics of the program such as structure, funding, program staff, and program mission and goals. I was very surprised to learn that the athletic department initiated the establishment of SAAS because the department never formally and publicly admitted to the racist actions by Coach Owens (Peoples, auditory response, 2006). I find it odd that a department that will not admit that African-American student-athletes are treated differently than White student-athletes will create a program to support the needs of Black student-athletes. I was also surprised but pleased to discover that although SAAS was created in response to the protests by African-Americana students and the established academic needs of Black athletes, SAAS has always been committed to serving both White and student-athletes of color.
After engaging in research on this topic, it is obvious to me that the athletic department selected the best candidate, Ms. Gertrude Peoples, to establish and serve as director of SAAS. Not only is Ms. Peoples intelligent, resourceful, and possesses strong leadership skills, but she is also very kind and really cares about the academic and personal success of each and every student-athlete. However, I was surprised to learn that Peoples was selected to establish SAAS without any prior experience in establishing or running an academic program. Also, once selected for the position, she was given little to no guidance, set free to run the program as she saw fit. During the first few years, Peoples was not given enough funding to hire other staff members besides a few tutors, leaving the program understaffed and less able to sufficiently support the needs of student-athletes (Peoples, auditory response, 2006). It is as if the athletic department wanted to appear as though they cared about the needs of Black student-athletes, however did not care enough to ensure that SAAS was a successful program. Of course this is my own interpretation of the information I found. Luckily, student-athletes were blessed to have a program established and directed by an amazing woman who would not let insufficient funds, few staff members, or her inexperience get in the way of ensuring that they had a program that was there to fully support their needs and successes.
In order to fully grasp the creation of SAAS and the program’s characteristics at the beginning of its existence, I did a considerable amount of research on the characteristics of SAAS today. What I found most surprising was that the goals and mission of SAAS have not changed, but have instead expanded to include areas such as nutrition, community service, mentoring, and career exploration. Also, over the years SAAS’s responsibilities, budget, and number of staff members have also increased, leading one to conclude that the importance and success of SAAS is widely known within the athletic department and throughout the general University of Washington community. However, it was interesting to find that some aspects have not changed. For example, in terms of campus support for the program, many staff members within SAAS argue that the program does not receive support by some faculty on campus who feel that student-athletes do not require or deserve special assistance. However, overall the UW community is very supportive of athletics and realizes the financial contributions and publicity student-athletes bring to the university (Post, auditory response, 2006).
Before engaging in my research I felt very nervous because I did not have a lot of prior experience conducting research, especially historical research. Despite my insecurities, I was excited to begin my work for I had an honest interest in learning about the establishment of the UW Student-Athlete Academic Services program. I also thought that I would not have too much trouble finding written information on my topic because it was a relatively recent establishment; however I was very mistaken about this belief. Before I even thought about the different methods I would use to collect my historical information, I spent time online trying to find any general information about my topic that might direct my work. I also looked at the SAAS website for clues as to where I should begin this exciting process.
I began my research by visiting the archives. I had never used resources within the archive department before, and was a little nervous and insecure about my research abilities. Fortunately, the archivists were very helpful and friendly. During my visits to the archives I spent the majority of my time looking through finding aides and selecting boxes that I wanted to search through. The most challenging aspect of this activity was that all of my boxes contained student information and were therefore categorized as restricted, which meant that an archivist had to go through each file and remove all of the student information before I was allowed to search the files. This was a very time consuming activity! After about a week or two of going through the process of selecting boxes, having the archives staff go through the files, and then searching through the files myself with out any luck of finding information about my topic, I decided to take another approach in my hunt for information.
Before ending my research within the archive department, I arranged a meeting with Carla Rickerson, who spent a considerable amount of time before our meeting brainstorming various approaches I could take in finding information. The only advice that she could give was to search through the “Pacific Northwest Regional Newspaper and Periodical Index”. To my surprise this was a very useful strategy that allowed me to find numerous articles regarding the racism on the football team involving Coach Owens. I was a bit disappointed that there were not any articles covering the establishment of SAAS, however I was grateful to find some information that I could use in answering my research questions, and away I went to the microfilm department.
The microfilm department was another new and exciting experience for me. Again, the staff working there was very helpful and patient with my ignorance and numerous questions. After learning how to work the equipment and surviving having two of the machines break down during my use of them, I was able to locate, read, and print numerous articles that provided very useful information regarding events that led to the establishment of SAAS, and on the program’s founder and first director, Ms. Gertrude Peoples.
Since I was engaging in research on the establishment of the very program I work for, I was fortunate to have informational resources and assistance at work. In discussing my research progress with my boss, Pam Robenolt, she suggested that I talk with Carrie Bayless who also works within the program and has done extensive research on the racism on the football team during the 1960’s and the protests by the BSU and members of the Seattle community. In speaking with Carrie I received copies of her papers that proved to be useful sources of information on events that led to the establishment of SAAS. Pam also suggested that I interview Ms. Gertrude Peoples (founder and former director of SAAS), and Mr. Rob Post (one of the first full-time staff members of SAAS and current Assistant Director of Counseling), and gave me their contact information. Pam also gave me some current documents on SAAS that allowed me to understand the program’s current missions, goals, structure, and successes.
My next plan of action was to set up interviews with Ms. Gertrude Peoples and Mr. Rob Post. Since I had never conducted an informational interview in an attempt to gather historical information, I used the document, Oral History as a Teaching Approach given in class by Professor Nerad to prepare for the interviews. After requesting interviews, both individuals agreed and were great sources of information! I was even given primary documents by Ms. Peoples, who admitted that the reason why I could not find information in the achieves about SAAS may be because she had kept it all! Mr. Post was a great source of information for details on the program in the beginning as well as on current program information. Overall, the majority of the information found for this research paper was collected through the two interviews I conducted.
Throughout the entire research process I have kept detailed notes in my field journal regarding my research activities, sources found, and information collected. I found this process to be very helpful and made piecing together the history of SAAS and writing this paper that much easier. Keeping track of my research activities was also a great way to reflect on what I had already done or tried, thus making clear what the next step of action should be. I also found that keeping track of my sources in my field journal was very helpful during the writing process when I needed to gather all of my sources of information and recall where I had found information from.
In being that this is the first historical piece that I have written, I found the writing process quite challenging. I felt as though I needed to site every point I made for I was not an expert on the topic. However, once I got use to this style of writing, I really began to enjoy the piecing together of information to tell a story. Throughout this entire process I have felt like a detective, and being asked to produce this paper has given me the opportunity to appreciate all of the work I put into my quest for information.
Engaging in research for this class has taught me some valuable lessons regarding the methods, processes and sources used in conducting historical research. For example, in searching for primary sources, be creative. It is important to not only rely on the archive department on campus or at the local library for finding primary sources of information, but to ask those involved in the history of the topic under study. I have also learned from this experience as well as from the discussions on Agnes Fay Morgan in the book The Academic Kitchen written by Dr. Maresi Nerad, that the collection of historical records can reveal what a university considers to be of valuable contribution to the campus community. When the University of California-Berkeley archive department retained only half of Dr Morgan’s departmental files and then improperly indexed them to be excluded from the material of other outstanding campus faculty, the university sent an indirect message that the accomplishments of women leaders were of little value (Nerad, pg. 14). Likewise, one could suspect that if the contributions of a Black woman were seen as valuable to the university community, one might be more likely to find SAAS documents within the UW archives department.
I have also learned that engaging in historical research takes a lot of hard work, time, perseverance, and most importantly, patience. There were many times throughout this term, especially in the beginning when searching for documents in the archives, that I felt frustrated and as if I was getting nowhere. Each time I felt that way I would look through my field journal and remind myself of the work I had accomplished and would eventually think of a new strategy to try. I also found that I learned just as much from methods and processes that were unsuccessful as I did from those that were successful. You can bet that the next time I engage in historical research I will be more successful than I was this time. I have learned that conducting historical research is a skill that takes practice to get good at.
Throughout both the research and writing processes, I learned how course readings could serve as examples of research methods, sources, and writing styles. For example, I used the work of John Thelin and Maresi Nerad to guide my search and use of sources. Seeing that they both used a wide variety of sources inspired me to be creative and to try different approaches in my search for information. I also used the writing style of Dr. Nerad to direct my own writing. I felt that Nerad’s inclusion of biographical accounts increased reader interest and an understanding of the role of women academics in higher education, and thus sought to do the same in my own writing.
Due to the fact that the majority of the information I found was through conducting interviews, I learned the importance of triangulation. One thing I noticed was that although my interviewees could provide me with excellent information, they could not provide me with concrete dates, which I did not necessarily expect of them. I quickly learned the importance of finding other sources to compare information with. For example, I compared the information Gertrude Peoples gave me regarding the racism on the football team in the late 1960’s, with information on that topic given by newspaper articles written during that time and to the information provided by Carrie Bayless in her research papers. Once I found that all three sources were painting the same picture and providing the same facts, I felt comfortable with the accuracy of my information. Obviously I could not do this with all of my information; however I tried to as much as possible.
Given the limited amount of time and my inexperience in conducting historical research, I was unable to answer all of my questions. Unanswered questions I still have include: What was the response to the establishment of SAAS outside of the University of Washington community; how did the general student body feel about a separate academic assistance program for student-athletes; and how long did it take for SAAS to be setup? In an attempt to answer these remaining questions, I would contact Ms. Peoples and Mr. Post again and ask if they could suggest other individuals to interview that could possibly shed light on my lingering questions. For example, through interviewing a student tutor who worked with the program during those first few years might allow me to find out how members of the general student body reacted to the establishment of SAAS. I would also like to find more specific details about some questions that I have only partial answers for. For example, I know that in the beginning SAAS had a very small budget. However, I do not know the exact amount of this budget, which is important if I want to see how funding has changed over the years. I have also been told by two sources that the Student-Athlete Academic Services program was the first academic support program for student-athletes in the nation to be a part of the athletic department. I would like to verify that this information is correct. In an attempt to answer those questions which I have only partial answers for, I would ask Peoples if she might be able to tract down copies of SAAS’s budget during the first years of establishment. Or, I would ask the athletic department if they have kept past records of SAAS’s budget. In verifying if SAAS was the first program of its kind in the nation, I would start with internet research and see if the Department of Education or the National Collegiate Athletic Association keeps any records of academic support programs for student-athletes.
Overall this research project has been an extremely valuable experience. Through engaging in historical research I was given the opportunity to become familiar with the program that I currently work for. As a new employee, this experience of researching the establishment, history, and current characteristics of SAAS has allowed me to better understand the overall mission and goals of the program and how I through my work can help SAAS to achieve these objectives. Through this project I was also given the opportunity to get to know and form relationships with my coworkers and to better understand their roles within the program.
Engaging in this research also allowed me to reevaluate my professional goals. Before this project I wanted to work within a student support program that served students of color at the higher education level, such as the Office of Minority Affairs. At many universities, particularly smaller schools, programs such as the Office of Minority Affairs also serve student-athletes of color as well. In an attempt to gain experience serving the student-athlete population, I applied and was hired to work for Student-Athlete Academic Services here at the University of Washington. Through engaging in historical research on the establishment of SAAS, my career goals have shifted to include a focus on student support programs for student-athletes at the collegiate level. I have also become interested in engaging in further research in the field of college athletics, such as the impact of stereotype threat on the academic performance of student-athletes. I have always been one to believe that everything in life occurs for a reason. Engaging in this research on SAAS during my first term of my graduate school career has shaped my academic and research objectives for the rest of my time here at the University of Washington.
Peoples, Gertrude. (2006, October 31st) [Auditory Response, Establishment of Student-Athlete Academic Services]. Unpublished.
Post, Rob. (2006, November 7th). [Auditory Response, Establishment of Student-Athlete Academic Services]. Unpublished.
Bryant, H. (1969, June 4th). A White University: Race and the UW. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p. 14.
Montgomery, D. (1974, May 12th). Rah! Gertrude! She’s the UW’s Super Recruiter. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p. D1.
Racial Situation at UW Discussed: Committee Meets with Dr. Odegaard. (1968, March 5th). Seattle Times, p. 31.
Student-Athlete Academic Services. (1972). ^ [Brochure]. University of Washington, Seattle, WA: Gertrude Peoples.
Student-Athlete Academic Services. (1972). Program Handbook. University of Washington, Seattle, WA: Gertrude Peoples.
Robenolt, Pam. (2006, November 9th). [Auditory Response, Student-Athlete Academic Services]. Unpublished.
Nerad, M. (1999). ^ New York: State University of New York Press.
Rudolph, F. (1995). American College and University: A History. London: The University of Georgia Press.
Thelin, J. (2004). A History of American Higher Education. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Baird, D. (2004, August). Gertrude Peoples: Grandmother to the Dawgs. Sports Washington, pg. 18-19.
Bayless, C. (2004). Boycott in Context: 1969 Black Student Athlete Protest at the University of Washington. Unpublished.
Gertrude Peoples. (1998, June 5th). Alumni News. Gertrude Peoples’ private collection.
Howard-Hamilton, M. & S. Watt. (2001). New Directions for Student Services: Student Services for Athletes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Student-Athlete Academic Services. (2005). Statistics on UW Student-Athlete Academic Performance. [Program Handout]. University of Washington, Seattle, WA: Pam Robenolt.