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Graduating champions

Graduating champions

Skyhawks Athletics invests in student support services.

In the fall of 2022, the Athletics Department welcomed its new leader and athletic director Travis Whipple. With more than 15 years of experience within NCAA divisions I and II, Whipple plans to grow Skyhawks Athletics into a premier program of excellence with the student-athlete experience at the center.

"Our department takes to heart the idea of graduating champions. For us, that means competing at the highest level possible while preparing student-athletes for life."

 

“Our department takes to heart the idea of graduating champions,” Whipple said. “For us, that means competing at the highest level possible while preparing student-athletes for life.”

This commitment to student-athletes includes the addition of two key support roles. Brenna Anderson will serve as the first-ever dedicated athletic academic advisor for Skyhawk athletes. She joins Regina Curry, FLC's athletic wellness coach. Curry brings nearly 20 years of experience as a counselor and sports psychologist and most recently worked at FLC’s Counseling Center.

Regina Curry speaks with an athlete in her office at Fort Lewis College.

“When I was in the Counseling Center, very few athletes came in for counseling support,” Curry said. “As a former student-athlete, I wondered, where are they? I know they need support. That's when I started reaching out to teams and inviting them to talk. Within a month or two, my entire caseload consisted of athletes. They wanted to talk; they simply needed an invitation from someone they felt they could trust and who understood their experiences.”

Anderson and Curry’s positions were created as part of the NCAA Life Skills initiative, which launched in 2016 and focuses on helping student-athletes balance academic achievements, athletic success, and personal well-being.

"My professors pushed me to grow as a student and a person and to find a true love of learning."
— Ashley Strader (Exercise Physiology, ’22)

"The drive and passion student-athletes bring to life is inspiring,” Curry said. “They are truly extraordinary regarding the academic, social, societal, and athletic schedules they manage, and yet they are humans. They experience the struggles, hurt, hope, triumphs, and failures we all do. They need help, too. That's why I'm here: to witness their experiences, celebrate their achievements, help carry their emotional loads, and set goals to do better. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to hear their stories."

“Athletics has an opportunity to help serve as the front porch for Fort Lewis College,” Whipple said. “We aim to be a point of pride for our students, community, and alumni. Athletics is striving to create a vibrant campus life, serve as role models, and continue to develop traditions that unite all involved.”

Skyhawk brains & brawn

When they weren’t running around the pitch or pumping iron in the weight room, Ashley Strader (Exercise Physiology, ’22) and Skylar Byrnes (Accounting, ’22) were crushing the books. The former women’s soccer team members were honored as co-valedictorians for the Spring 2022 graduating class.

"Ashley and Skylar are the definitions of student-athlete success,” said Damian Clarke, women’s soccer head coach. “These two young people set a standard for themselves that's difficult to match. Both have a championship mentality, day in and day out.”

Strader and Byrnes upheld 4.0 GPAs while juggling practices, games, and the global pandemic that hit when they were sophomores.

“As a student-athlete, you always need to be on your toes and ready to adapt to new challenges at any moment,” Byrnes said. “But also remember that you will never be alone in your experience. From obtaining a paid internship with the guidance of professors to securing a full-time position with the same company afterward, FLC has greatly impacted my journey so far.”

These days, Strader works in patient care at a dialysis clinic and plans to apply to the physicians assistant program at the University of New Mexico next summer. After interning last year with Eide Bailly, LLP, Byrnes is prepping for her CPA licensure exams and joining the company full-time in January 2023 as a Tax Associate based in their Denver office.

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