March 6, 2012
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
At a time when many believe collegiate athletics is nothing more than an entertainment industry rife with problems, it is important to note some of the real contributions our student-athletes make as they help make the world a better place.
We talk about the five-star recruit, the first-round draft choice, arm strength, speed, quickness, etc.
We wonder how all the NFL teams could pass on Tom Brady so many times before the New England Patriots selected him in the sixth round. Didn't anyone notice what he accomplished at Michigan?
I know the media attention for our major sports is not going to change. I also know many of our university students are focusing on the important issues that they face in everyday life. And like it was with Tom Brady, we will look back at some of these students and be puzzled as to why no one noticed their leadership, drive and abilities while they were in school.
So, let's focus on a group of our student-athletes and one specific individual who looked beyond the playing field and decided to be part of a team that can make a difference.
The individual is Courtney Mercier. A two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award winner, a three-time Academic All-Big Ten and three-time U-M Athletic Academic Achievement Award honoree on the women's soccer team, she will be graduating from Michigan this spring with a 3.99 GPA. She has already been admitted to the U-M Law School through the Wolverine Scholar Program, allowing her to go to law school without taking the LSAT. Her goal is to be an environmental attorney.
When she heard U-M president Mary Sue Coleman outline the university's commitment to sustainability in a major speech last September, Courtney used it as an opportunity to work toward her professional goals and help the student-athletes become a viable part of another team, a team on campus working for environmental causes: the Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI).
She enlisted the help of Shari Acho, the director of M-PACT (Professional and Career Transition Program) within our athletic department and created M-SAS (Michigan Student-Athletes for Sustainability). This group allows our student-athletes interested in environment and sustainability to work directly with SSI, the Office of Campus Sustainability, and the Graham Environmental Sustainable Institute.
Understanding the strong interest in sustainability among the student-athletes along with their time restraints, M-SAS became the touch point for the working relationship with the campus organizations.
After presentations to the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Courtney brought together a group of student-athletes ready for their first project, a YouTube video production to publicize the efficient and environmentally friendly fleet of University of Michigan hybrid busses.
Arranging a date and time when 11 student-athletes from nine different sports could meet with a video production team arranged by Jim Michels from SSI was tougher than expected. The eagerness and interest of those students on campus reminded her of playing on a soccer team. What defined her for four years on the field gave her the confidence and passion to pursue the video and work to get M-SAS recognized as an athletic community that can make a difference.
Michelle McMahon and Courtney Fletcher (volleyball), Erik Braun (men's track and field), Allison Liske (women's track and field), Clare Stachel and Haley Kopmeyer (women's soccer), Camryn Jackson (wrestling), Patrick Omameh (football), Matt Broder (baseball), Michelle Sulahian (women's tennis) and J.D. Johnson (men's lacrosse) all helped in getting this project together. Working with U-M student-athletes, the campus organizations believed even more publicity can be generated for this important discussion.
The benefits of focusing on sustainability initiatives are real. The risks of overlooking these issues are also real.
When President Coleman outlined U-M's aggressive sustainability initiative she said:
"Students shape the University of Michigan in unexpected and profound ways. They plant seeds of ideas, they forge new trails, and they take us in exciting new directions.
Students are the story of environmental awareness and sustainability at Michigan. They exemplify our belief that a great public university continually strives to make the world a better place.
Today we begin an important new chapter -- one that will alter the face of our campus and, more important, the character of our teaching, research and impact as a global leader."
These are more than words. This was a call for action that many U-M students took to heart.
We are still going to discuss and dissect the upcoming NFL Draft and the NCAA Basketball Championships. But like Tom Brady, we have a number of student-athletes that will make their mark in their chosen professional field of endeavor and people will wonder how they could possibly develop to be the kind of individuals who have the capacity to "change the world."
What Courtney Mercier did to start M-SAS -- and how McMahon, Fletcher, Stachel, Kopmeyer, Liske, Braun, Jackson, Omameh, Broder, Sulahain and Johnson helped with this project -- is the reason why Michigan Athletics is known for being the "Leaders and Best" in EVERY way!!
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