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wpi journal

Athletic Academics: A Conversation with the President

September 28, 2018
LL Dana, it's so exciting to be with you to talk about our athletic programs, which engage so many students across our campus. Tell us a little bit about how our students are engaged in athletics.

DH I don't think people realize the extent to which our students want to be healthy and active. We not only have 18 varsity sports, but also over 1,500 students involved in intramurals and over 1,000 involved in club sports. It's a large, active group of students who want, on a daily basis, to engage in sport, or they want to come in and just work out in the rec center.

LL Since PE is still a requirement to graduate, all students are engaged in physical education as part of their degree program.

DH Exactly. We try to embrace all of their passions, whether it's being involved in club or varsity athletics, or trying new things in a class. We're broadening our offerings—from Zumba to rowing for fitness—and our students are enjoying them tremendously.

LL Our varsity athletes are not only incredibly talented, on the field or on the court, but they're amazing students in the classroom, right? They really kill it on the studies.

DH Yes, they do. We're very intentional about the term student-athletes. They're here to get their education, and we feel that we are supporting their academic program by helping them to be resilient, to work hard, work in teams, and learn about accountability and expectations. It's a great synergy and we're finding that those students who excel academically also want to excel athletically. All our teams boast a 3.2+ GPA.

LL It feels to me like athletics is a natural part of the WPI Plan–based education, where our students learn lessons by doing things in the real world, whether that's in athletics or with community service.

DH We really want them to be the well-rounded individuals they're trying to be in the classroom. We feel that athletics embodies the WPI Plan. You know, there is nothing like a scoreboard to tell you if you're doing well or not, but it's also behind-the-scenes helping them learn more about themselves as individuals, learn how to work well with others—that resilience and grit they're going to need moving on, not only in their professional lives, but also in their personal lives.

LL Right. In a fast-changing world, a lot of grit is good. Now let's talk about this amazing building we're sitting in. The "new" Sports and Rec Center just celebrated its fifth anniversary. I really believe that new buildings can inspire new thinking and new ways of doing things. Tell us how this building has changed athletics at WPI.

DH When we moved over here from the wonderful Alumni Gym, we basically had a new way of thinking, because what we did before did not translate to this new building.  It opened up new opportunities, ideas—and it’s not just athletics, but also about what the university has been able to accomplish. We have used this building for admissions, open houses, career fairs, and your …

LL My inauguration ceremony was in this building!

DH Right! Lots of other special events too—we're holding ballroom dance competitions, we're bringing robotics competitions here. So, it's really changed who we are, what we are, and what we want to be. The sky's the limit for us in the future with this building.

LL And it has especially helped us attract great student-athletes and coaches.

DH Exactly! When we know of student-athletes or coaches who are considering WPI, they can't believe what we have—not just inside with the Rec Center, but also the outside ... it really blows people away. It's not only new, it's also well done. It embodies what WPI is all about. It's excellence personified. And that's what we love about this space—it really has made our work so much better for the university.

LL Well, keep striving. Keep winning. Go, Engineers!

DH Go, Engineers!

WPI Journal: Conversation with the President - Fall 2018

Videographer: Steven Andrada