Sept. 1, 2006
When the Tennessee Volunteers football team takes the field this Saturday, spectators will notice an addition to several players. jerseys: the VOLScholar insignia.
The VOLScholar program, an initiative of the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center in cooperation with the men's and women's athletics departments, is a comprehensive academic and citizenship-building program that has gained enthusiastic support from several UT men's and women's teams. Student-athletes earn the right to wear the VOLScholar patch by achieving a 3.0 grade-point average in the previous fall and/or spring semester.
"We have a lot of outstanding young men and women in our program that are doing great things on and off the field of competition," said Mike Hamilton, men's athletics director. "This is just another way to recognize them for their behavior and prepare them for life after school."
VOLScholar came together through the efforts of Thornton Center staff members, who believe strongly that the academic support they offer UT's student-athletes should reap long-term benefits. The entire 2006 football team is participating in the VOLScholar program, although only those earning 3.0 GPAs will display the patch.
"What we are trying to do is create in these student-athletes an appreciation of learning," said Georgia Caver, Thornton Center program coordinator. "This is not a program designed to make sure they all are eligible.
"We're emphasizing the ideals of good citizenship and instilling awareness that the way our students present themselves has a direct bearing on how they are perceived by their teachers, classmates and the community. We want them to feel more like an integrated part of the university and less like a subculture."
While grade-point averages, degree progression, Southeastern Conference and NCAA academic requirements are of immediate importance, the program supports a culture in which UT's student-athletes celebrate their academic and personal excellence in the same manner that their athletics milestones are recognized.
Development of VOLScholar has been spearheaded by Caver and Lauren Mackey, Thornton Center assistant director.
"It is building a foundation for these students to be successful academically, athletically and socially," Mackey said. "The program incorporates a strong curriculum, the influence of successful peer mentors and an incentives program that should feed these student-athletes' competitive natures. Ideally, this comprehensive approach will help our student-athletes embrace all the opportunities UT offers them."
Fans can expect to see VOLScholar patches on other players' uniforms as those teams compete throughout the year. VOLScholar encourages student-athletes to commit as strongly to their academic pursuits as they do to their efforts on the field, in the pool and on the court.
"I am very proud of the effort the Thornton Center staff has given to this program," Thornton Center director Eric Brey said. "Our focus is to help student-athletes succeed in the classroom, and we feel the VOLScholar program is going to be that link to success.
"Providing the foundation for our students promotes the process of their becoming life long learners."