Matador Achievement Center Unveiled For CSUN Student-Athletes

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director (Strategic Communications)

Northridge, Calif. – Cal State Northridge reaffirmed its commitment to the strong values of academic success for Matador student-athletes with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday (9/9/13) at the new Matador Achievement Center at Bayramian Hall.

The NCAA selected six institutions to receive grants as part of a three-year accelerating academic success pilot program aimed to increase student-athlete academic performance. CSUN was awarded $900,000 from a very competitive applicant pool.

Dr. Dianne Harrison (CSUN President) and Dr. Timothy White (Chancellor of the 23 campus CSU system) had the distinct honor of cutting the red ribbon to officially open the Matador Achievement Center that will serve the academic needs of the nearly 400 student-athletes at CSUN.

"The great people in CSUN Athletics and Academic Affairs got together, wrote a proposal (to the NCAA) and were successful in getting this proposal funded," remarked Dr. Harrison. "They made it happen. We are very, very pleased. "

Grant recipients were selected by a committee made up of representatives from the NCAA membership and staff. The group considered several criteria including presidential oversight, involvement of key staff, goals identified by the institution, the institution's ability to match grant funds, the demonstrated sustainability of the initiative, the institution's history in the NCAA's Division I Academic Performance Program (APP), and the institution's infractions history.

"To expand our academic resources is essential," said Dr. Harrison.

"I would like to thank a number of people who have helped the Matador Achievement Center become a reality," remarked Dr. Harrison. "First was the vision of Dr. Bernard Franklin (NCAA Executive Vice-President), who pushed this idea to many different sectors. Congratulations also go to Brett Sanders (Director of the Matador Achievement Center) for his leadership and his staff that includes Greg Prager, Cristi Allen and Andrea Hernandez; and the academic student-athletes team (Michelle Almazan, Spencer Carranza, Mandie McConkey and LarryO'Connor). Also congratulations to Dr. Elizabeth Adams (Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies), Janet Pinneau (Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete, Welfare & Development), Ashlie Kite (Senior Associate Director/SWA), Dr. Tina Kiesler (Faculty Athletics Representative) and Dr. Brandon Martin (CSUN's Director of Intercollegiate Athletics). 

"CSUN is indeed proud of the many accomplishments of its student-athletes who not only excel on the playing field but also in the classroom," said Dr. Martin. "This $900,000 grant from the NCAA will enhance CSUN's commitment to academic excellence."    

Over the next three years, the $900,000 will be used to support new programming and expand existing programs through initiatives such as summer bridge programs, and enhanced mentoring and tutoring throughout the year. CSUN will also use the dollars to add additional academic staff and technology. Already the Matador Achievement Center has added outstanding academic personnel that includes Brett Sanders (Director of the Matador Achievement Center), Greg Prager (Administrative Support Coordinator), Cristi Allen (Mentoring Coordinator) and Andrea Hernandez (Tutoring Coordinator).

According to Dr. Harrison, "the Matador Achievement Center will provide new and refreshed computers, printing stations, IPads, and other technology to allow us to help student-athletes on campus, and when they are on the road. We will also provide summer scholarship money for students who are making progress in their academic programs.  We are excited about many other possibilities."

A team of representatives from the NCAA national office in Indianapolis attended Monday's ribbon cutting ceremony at CSUN. They included Eric Brey, Gary DeCastroWendy Walters and Nikki WatsonDr. Harrison thanked Brey, DeCastro, Walters and Watson for their efforts.

 "The grant recipients of the accelerating academic success program are schools that are really putting the dollars to good use and have direct impact to their student-athletes," said Watson. "The Matador Achievement Center will provide the opportunity for student-athletes to engage with their mentors and tutors. They haven't been able to do that in the past. This is very exciting. They are students first who also participate in athletics. Our goal is to continue to help student-athletes have success, graduate from their university, and to go onto their next endeavor wherever that road leads to. We want to make sure they (student-athletes) are prepared for the next stages of their lives."

According to Dr. Harrison, "CSUN has met all the requirements for 'Year One' responsibilities which included surveying CSUN student-athletes for their need assessments. We have reclassified our positions for mentoring and tutoring coordinator. We completed the construction of the Matador Achievement Center. CSUN has also made progress on 'Year Two' milestones."

A large contingent of CSUN head coaches, assistant coaches, student-athletes, university dignitaries, campus staff and administrators attended the event.

"As the academic expectations for Division I student-athletes continue to increase, the NCAA is proud to offer assistance to those institutions that have demonstrated need and a plan for using these funds to contribute to student-athlete success," said NCAA Executive Vice-President Dr. Bernard Franklin. "This pilot program is evidence of the NCAA's commitment to the achievement of our member institutions and the student-athletes on their campuses."