Interview with Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academic Services at the University of Oklahoma.
Submitted by the 2016-2017 Athletes Task Force
Michael Meade, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academic Services at the University of Oklahoma, agreed to answer some questions for the Athletes Task Force of Diversity Abroad.
Why is study abroad important? What do you think students can learn from international education? Study abroad is important because it gives student-athletes an opportunity to explore the richness of other cultures, languages, traditions and history. This experience complements their learning in the classroom.
Did you have education abroad opportunities as an undergraduate? If so, how did it impact your college experience? I did not complete a formal study abroad experience as an undergraduate. However, I did participate in a European tour with a men's choral group while at Notre Dame. It was a month-long experience during which I was able to experience cultures in seven different countries and also learn about my own family history during my time in Ireland. I actually located family in County Kerry during my extended stay there. That was an unforgettable moment.
Have you been abroad as a professional? If yes, where? I have not been abroad as a professional, but I am definitely interested in future opportunities.
What would you say is the general support level for student-athletes to study abroad while at the University of Oklahoma? Is there support from the top down at both the university and athletics levels? The Athletics Department provides tremendous support for student-athletes interested in study abroad, as does the university’s administration from the President down. In addition to the coaches being receptive to this experience, the department also provides financial support through the NCAA Student Assistance Fund for student-athlete well-being needs.
As a rule, are your athletic advisers encouraged to mention study abroad to the student-athletes during advising sessions? Athletics academic advisers encourage student-athletes to consider study abroad based on their interest and designated academic program. Additionally, our Foreign Language Center coordinator meets with student-athletes interested in study abroad to determine the best plan of action and type of program, and provides guidance through the application process.
Has there been an increase in the number of athletes studying abroad from OU during the past five years? Yes, a significant increase. Between 1993-2012, approximately 10 student-athletes participated in study abroad programs at OU. Between 2013 and 2016, an additional 59 students completed study abroad programs. In 2017 alone, 30 student-athletes are participating in study abroad.
Do you find it easier for some sports to study abroad compared to others? Student-athletes in most sport programs are able to participate in study abroad at some point during the summer. Depending on the students' seasons of competition, some participate in May while others choose programs that are offered in either June or July. Almost all student-athletes have the opportunity to participate in the summer or after they have completed their eligibility.
Do you think coaches and administrators would be more apt to promote study abroad if there were an athletic component to the program? Coaches are receptive to students interested in study abroad opportunities. Generally speaking, an athletic component is not essential, provided they make responsible, healthy decisions during their experience.
Do you think student-athletes would be more likely to study abroad if there were an athletic training/competition component? While many student-athletes have an interest in study abroad programs that focus on a topic related to sport, that certainly is not the priority for most students.
In general, do you feel there is support among coaches for their team members to go on study abroad or is it impossible to generalize about this? I believe coaches are supportive of student-athletes interested in studying abroad. I have not heard of any head coaches that are opposed to students interested in taking advantage of this opportunity.
Has Athletics publicized any high-profile student-athletes who have studied abroad? If yes, in what ways and which sports? Student-athletes participating in study abroad opportunities are recognized during our annual Scholar Athlete banquet in April. Additionally, the Athletics Communications staff has written articles regarding student-athletes' study abroad experiences in recent years. We certainly plan to continue this effort as we see this as a valuable opportunity for all college students.
Do you know if the idea of study abroad for student-athletes is mentioned to recruits? Study abroad opportunities are mentioned during prospective student-athlete recruiting visits. Study abroad is highlighted during prospect tours of the Prentice Gautt Academic Center.
Are there things you think should be happening on campus to promote study abroad for student-athletes that are not happening at this time? The focus on study abroad at the University of Oklahoma is impressive. The number and variety of options makes such an opportunity accessible for the vast majority of students across campus. The Athletics Department appreciates this support.