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Faculty athletics committee looks to attract athletes to a mix of majors

Despite common stereotypes, student athletes at UNC have been found to choose many of the same majors as their non-athlete peers.

But some majors — especially education and those related to health — notably fail to attract student athletes.

A report presented at the faculty athletics committee meeting Tuesday showed that athletes are not shying away from competitive majors, committee member Joy Renner said.

The top five majors among student athletes are exercise and sport science, communication, business, journalism and management and society, said Robert Mercer, director of academic support for student athletes.

Three out of those five majors — exercise and sport science, journalism and business — are also among the most popular for the general student body.

In response to fears that fewer athletes are studying health professions and education, the faculty athletics committee has established two task forces to make these majors more appealing to athletes.

Dana Gelin, associate director of athletic communications, spoke about a new program, Athletes in Medicine, that she hopes will provide help to athletes who want to go to medical school.

The program will assign each participant a medical student who participated in athletics as an undergraduate to serve as a mentor. It will also pair participants with a physician who can provide opportunities for shadowing and research.

Athletes might be steering clear of education majors because they think scheduling student teaching will be difficult with practices, said Deborah Eaker-Rich, assistant dean of the School of Education.

She proposed exploring ways that education school faculty could work with athletes to help them meet student teaching requirements.

Committee member John Stephens warned the group that giving athletes additional time or help in completing their student teaching could be controversial.

“People who are in drama and are trying to learn their lines — they could also use that time,” he said.

UNC does not have a specialization within the education major for those who wish to become high school physical education teachers.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a P.E.-type major here,” Eaker-Rich said.

“That’s the biggest sort of potential for getting student athletes into education.”

“Anything that we could do that would increase the likelihood of a student athlete becoming a high school coach — I see that as a win,” said Steve Reznick, chairman of the committee.

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