The Team Behind the Team: Academic Success Program
Ruquel Atchinson

Oct. 4, 2013

During each week of competition throughout the cross country season, we will highlight a member of our support staff that helps the Wolverines succeed on and off the course!

Meet academic counselor Ruquel Atchinson:

Describe your academic and professional career path and how you ultimately ended up at Michigan?
I was involved in sports at an early age, mainly basketball, but I ran track and played volleyball from 7th-12th grade. I would always watch NBA and college basketball games on TV. My favorite college teams were Michigan, Duke and UNLV. I was a huge Christian Laettner fan, of which I took a lot of heat! Growing up in Saginaw, Mich., we had a lot of talented high school basketball and football players of which I enjoyed watching. My cousins and I loved good basketball and we also followed a few of the Detroit teams, but our favorite was Detroit Southwestern.

When I began my college career at Central Michigan University I wasn't sure what I wanted to major in, but once I discovered the sports studies major, I knew it would be something I would enjoy exploring. After undergrad, I worked customer service jobs while trying to break into my career field. I knew I didn't want to go back to Saginaw, so I moved to Pontiac, Mich. and worked full time at Enterprise Rent a Car in their Management Trainee program and part time at the Palace of Auburn Hills. At the Palace, I worked sporting events and concerts. After Enterprise, I started working for the Boys & Girls Club in Southwest Detroit as a Physical Education Instructor. This job was fun because it kept me active and I was able to develop programs for the kids to get them moving. After working two years there I decided it was time for me to go back to school, so I enrolled at Wayne State University in their sports administration master's program. I didn't want to drag it out so I enrolled full-time and took evening courses. My school schedule didn't work with my B&GC schedule because I worked 12:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. I then learned of a company that was looking to hire physical education instructors to teach K-8th grade gym classes in area schools. The position didn't require a teaching certificate and worked well with my schedule. I was also able to coach seventh and eighth grade girls' basketball and assist with Girl Scouts.

During my final year of grad school, I started interning in the athletic department at WSU. I interned for about three months before being hired full-time as a compliance coordinator. Seven months later, an internship opened up in the Compliance Services Office (CSO) at Michigan and though I would be taking a pay cut, I knew it was a great opportunity to work at my dream school. After working for a year in the CSO, I was hired full-time. After working two years in the CSO, I wanted to learn about others areas within the athletic department. After speaking with Shari Acho and former associate athletic director Warde Manuel, we agreed that I would be a good fit in the Academic Success Program. I interviewed for the job, things worked out for me and 10 years later I'm still here at the place I love!

What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most about my job is seeing the development and progression of the students from the start of their academic and athletic careers at Michigan to the end of their journeys as they receive their degree. It's really great to share in their happiness as they strive to achieve academic goals and conquer life's challenges along the way. I truly appreciate being a part of their journey.

What is the biggest challenge in your job?
The biggest challenge in my job is helping my student-athletes deal with the constant increased pressures of being an elite student-athlete. Specifically, the pressure to win, being able to compete in the classroom and job market and also to fit in socially.

What makes working for Michigan Athletics special?
What makes working for Michigan Athletics special, aside from the obvious great tradition and rich history, is being able to share in all the great moments and successes of our sports teams. Also, the "Wow" experiences that are created for Athletic Department team members are exciting and rewarding.

What do you tell prospective student-athletes about the quality of academic resources/facilities Michigan provides?
I tell prospective student-athletes that our quality of academic resources are second to none and the great facility that we provide for them speaks to the level of commitment we have toward their academic success. It's important for the prospects and their parents to also understand that the resources we provide are going to be specific to their son or daughter, which means they are going to get individualized time and attention to match their specific needs.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?
I enjoy hanging out with my husband, attending concerts with my friends and singing in the choir at my church.

• Past Entry: Volunteer Assistant Erica Murdock

Contact: Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423