Alyssa Sutton

When Eastern Oregon University’s athletic department presented its strategic plan at the Board of Trustees’ meeting Thursday, those in attendance indicated they were impressed.

Stephanie Upshaw, Eastern’s assistant athletic director, presented the plan, which was completed last June, a month after the board approved the university’s strategic planning process.

According to Upshaw, the department has developed more than 100 action items within eight guiding principles –– to reflect high standards of academic excellence; pursue athletic greatness; promote the physical, emotional, social and mental development of student-athletes through a robust system of care and support; embrace the responsibility of equitable treatment and promotion of diversity acceptance and inclusion; encourage innovation and cultivate a mindset for growth; promote community engagement and character development through respect, responsibility, integrity, sportsmanship and servant leaderships; strictly adhere to the highest level of fiscal control and full compliance with all governing associations with transparency and integrity; and engage (Eastern’s) alumni through collaborative efforts that reflect a “Lifelong Mountie” approach.

Upshaw said recent data shows that EOU’s female athletes are performing better academically than their male counterparts, but 11 of EOU’s 13 teams currently meet the goal of an overall grade point average of 3.0. Football barely missed the mark with an overall 2.99 GPA.

Upshaw said student-athletes are provided with an orientation when they first arrive on campus so they are aware of what is expected of them academically.

“We changed the presentations to roundtable orientations, which is more engaging,” she said. “We bring in the people who do what they do best on our campus and engage with smaller groups of students.”

Upshaw said mentors, advisers and individuals from the career center walk student-athletes through their available resources.

During the Board of Trustees meeting, Upshaw also introduced a newly initiated program: the Mountaineers Academic Project Plan.

“This (plan) specifically speaks to our peril numbers,” Upshaw said, referring to student-athletes who have been provisionally admitted, are on academic probation, are not meeting initial NAIA eligibility requirements or are transfers with a GPA below 2.50.

“The student meets with the eligibility coordinator and identifies barriers, strengths and weaknesses,” Upshaw said. “They identify what resources they know about or they have used. They have to walk through the process. We’re there to guide them.”

The plan was put in place winter term, and 27 students in academic peril participated. According to Upshaw, the group’s average GPA originally was 1.60, but by the end of the term the average had risen to 2.21.

See complete story in Friday's Observer