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Shock the World Campaign
In This Issue

       

Fundraising nears goal for Student Athlete Success Center, arena renovations Final $1.4 million must be raised for construction to begin



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Gretchen Torline cheers just as hard as any dedicated Shocker while watching WSU’s student-athletes compete.

But what really makes her proud is seeing those players accept their diploma at commencement or getting an email from a recent graduate saying they’d landed a job.

“It’s wonderful when we go to NCAA tournaments or win a championship, but my focus is seeing them in a cap and gown or watching them go off and be successful in their careers,” says Torline, director of Athletic Academic Services for Wichita State the past 27 years.

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Gretchen Torline works with Jace Coppoc, track and field athlete, in the computer lab.

She sits in her office in the Downing Academic Learning Center in Charles Koch Arena, looking out to the study hall where a handful of student-athletes are buried in books just days before finals begin. Along with her colleagues in WSU Athletics, she looks forward to the construction of a new Student Athlete Success Center that will better serve the nearly 300 students she and two others supervise academically.

“When this facility opened 14 years ago, we thought we had died and gone to heaven,” she says of the arena renovation in 2004 that included the Downing Learning Center. “But we have outgrown it, both in terms of the higher number of students we serve and the expanded services we offer them.”

The WSU Foundation, in partnership with WSU Athletics, has raised $12.4 million toward a goal of $13.8 million to build the new Student Athlete Success Center just south of Charles Koch Arena. The privately raised funds also will be used to renovate coach’s and administrative offices inside the arena and build an enclosed walkway from the venue to the Success Center.

“Our donors have contributed so generously to this project, but we must secure pledges for the remaining $1.4 million in order to start construction,” says Elizabeth King, WSU Foundation president and CEO. “We’re hoping that can be accomplished by April.”

Torline and her full-time staff of two share responsibilities for monitoring the academic performance of all student-athletes. They use a wide variety of resources to help them succeed.

“We expect them to do well and they have to do well to remain eligible,” she says. “Our goal is to do more than just see them pass. We want them to be successful to their full potential.”

In fact, WSU Athletics has a proud record of academic success. Year after year, student-athletes have achieved an average GPA of 3.0 or higher. They also typically have a higher graduation rate than the student body as a whole. In the 2017-18 academic year, student athletes had a graduation rate of 57 percent, compared to 45 percent for all students.

But Torline also sees student-athletes who are frustrated by the limitations of their Learning Center. For instance, demand is high for tutoring but the facility has just three tutoring rooms. The new Success Center will have eight. The Study Hall will be much larger, about 2,500 square feet compared to 1,600 in the current space. The new computer center also will be larger with more workstations.

Another frustration with the current space is an excessive amount of foot traffic as students pass through on their way to other destinations. “That is not conducive to learning for those who are in the Study Hall trying to work,” Torline says. “The new Success Center will be a destination for learning, instead of a convenient way to get from one place to another.”

She’s excited that donors to the project want to invest in Shocker student-athletes.

“Between going to school and being an athlete, that’s a full-time job with lots of overtime,” she says. “We ask a lot from our student-athletes, and we should do what we can to make sure things go smoothly for them.”

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Student-athletes weigh in on the need for a new Success Center

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“More study rooms will give us quiet work spaces, allowing us to work on projects without bothering others. We can also use these spaces to record ourselves for a speech, class or presentation.” -- Wylie Glover, softball, majoring in business management
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“The technology in the current learning center is unreliable, such as wifi, internet outlet capabilities, printers, and other educational technology. We also need more functional workspaces. The chairs are uncomfortable and give very little support to the body that student-athletes put a lot of stress on during the day.” -- Preston Snavely, baseball, majoring in criminal justice
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“The new Student Center will offer more resources and the added space will be nice. It will be easier to find a quiet space to get work done. These improvements are needed so student-athletes can continue to achieve in the classroom.” -- Kelsey Slawson, track and field, majoring in exercise science

For more information

Your end-of-the-year gift to the Student Athlete Success Center is a game changer for all WSU student athletes. Contact Alex Johnson, director of development for WSU Athletics, at 316-978-7493 or ajohnson@goshockers.com.

Marya McCrae