By: DaWon Baker, @dawonbbaker
“For me, it’s like everything coming full circle.”
This was the phrase JP used to describe her transition from student athlete to NCAA postgraduate scholarship recipient and, now, Life Skills Coordinator. JP graduated with a Bachelor’s from Temple University, and a Master of Arts in the Cultural Studies of Sport in Education from the University of California, Berkeley. A former track and field athlete, JP is an advocate for the full, student athlete experience.
“I took pride in being a student athlete. I knew there were misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding how we were treated, so I enjoyed representing my team and the athletic department.”
JP served on Temple’s student athlete advisory committee, also known as SAAC, for several years, including serving two years as president. After graduating, she served as an assistant learning specialist and a fan experience lead for Cal’s athletic department.
“It was something that was new, the fan experience position. I went into it with the intent to learn about the other side of athletics, more of the business aspects of the experience. I worked with the marketing and promotions team, preparing and executing game day operations, which allowed me the chance to see things from another perspective. From meeting the groups that were being recognized or participating in on-field contests to collaborating with many of the department’s external-facing units and having the chance to ensure my students (as well as those visiting) had a memorable experience, this role added much value to my personal and professional growth. It was also something that further established my commitment to the department.”
What sets her apart is her commitment to the department and university.
“As a student athlete, I went to at least one contest for every single sport and we had 24 teams. Even in my postgraduate career, I made every effort to see each of the 30 teams compete and a number of them were off-campus. For my current role, I do the same thing. Would you trust someone who said they were there for you if you never saw them? I try to be there for my students. Going to their contests is fun for me, but it also lets them know I care about their holistic development and success.”
This is something JP considers in her position everyday. She is an ambassador for her team, job and university.
“I carry our mission and vision with me everywhere I go. I actually have physical copies with me at all times, even when I travel. I have pride in where I am and the number one thing I remind myself is that I’m here for the students.”
In her position now, JP serves as the Life Skills Coordinator for Mississippi State Athletics. In her role, JP operates with three P’s: Personal Leadership and Development, Professional and Postgraduate Preparation and Pay it Forward. The department uses these three things to help maximize the student athlete experience. In her role, she focuses on how the student athletes develop outside of their athletic identity.
“When you are an athlete, your identity is rooted in your sport, especially with your performance. My goal is to provide students the opportunity to train and develop in other areas, areas that support the University’s commitment to academic and athletic success, but that also provide them a chance to know themselves beyond their athletic identity.”
In addition to personal development, JP and the department utilize tools such as graduate school preparation, such as GRE prep and career exploration opportunities to assist with postgraduate transitions.
JP also oversees the community service club for the student athletes. One key question keeps JP going “How can I enhance the experience?” JP aims to equip the student-athletes with more experiences in order to enhance their overall experience. For JP, everything has definitely come full circle. From her time as a student athlete and a SAAC member, she now helps student athletes and oversees SAAC.
In her role now, JP likes to focus on collaboration.
“Every time I think of a new program or event, I always ask myself, ‘how can I get the staff involved?’ I often consult other staff members, try to get the career center [or related campus partners] involved, or campus faculty, members of the community, alumni or the Bulldog Club, I always think about how I can get others involved.”
The Bulldog Club is the fundraising resource for Mississippi State student-athletes.
When JP reflected on her career, she said that her experience and her mentors helped her tremendously.
“Visibility and accessibility gave me more opportunity. While I was a student athlete, I had people around me who served as great role models. My SAAC advisors were women at both the campus and conference level. The first Senior Associate Athletic Director I knew was a former student athlete, but more importantly for me, a successful black woman. I’ve had the chance to interact with and learn from some great women who have held high-ranking positions in college athletics; they give me something to strive to achieve. They serve as my role models. I had people who took the time to foster that ideal that being a student-athlete was more than just competing; those same people also provided me avenues to accomplish my professional goals. That’s what I want to do for others, especially for the students I work with day in and day out.”
When giving advice, JP urges people to do a few things.
“Go talk to people, do informational interviews, use your resources. Be a student of your current environment and the environment in which you’d like to be.”
Everything has definitely come full circle for JP Abercrumbie.