Student-athletes gain real world experience through summer jobs program
Summer vacation is anything but a break for most Longhorns student-athletes. Whether they use summer school sessions to gain additional academic hours, concentrate on off-season training, or spend hours in the sports medicine complex to rehabilitate from an injury, student-athletes usually have a year-round schedule. Approximately one-third of all UT student-athletes join the work forces during the summer.
Dr. Randa Ryan directs student affairs and assists Dr. Mike Sanders to identify a network of businesses that provide career development opportunities for student-athletes.
"This is a great experience for these student-athletes," Sanders said. "They are very dedicated, hard-working young people, and a summer job gives them a taste of the rest of the world."
University of Texas student-athletes work in a variety of professional environments, including retail, automobile dealerships, government agencies, and financial institutions. One loyal partner in the program is the University Federal Credit Union.
"We are very much tied to The University of Texas, and we are first and foremost concerned with education," said Sheila Wojcik, vice-president for membership for the UFCU. "We have for a long time associated with UT Athletics as a corporate sponsor, but we wanted to do something more to impact student-athletes.
"Our goal in this program is to cultivate a partnership between UFCU and the university," Wojcik added. "Most of these students will not become professional athletes, so we want to motivate them and help empower them to realize their career choices."
Alex Gagarin, who last fall finished her college eligibility with the Longhorns soccer team, worked as a UFCU intern last summer. "It was definitely different to be in the real world and not sitting in the classroom," Gagarin said. "It showed me the importance of having a strong work ethic and being dedicated to your job, whatever that is. We work real hard in sports, and it is exciting. In the real world, you have to work just as hard, and that was a good lesson I learned."
Wojcik says the UFCU had no reservations about hiring UT student-athletes. There were no preconceptions about bringing pampered college athletes into their midst.
"I mean, we're talking about The University of Texas, and we knew that these would be very motivated young people," Wojcik said. "These are real bright young people who are very disciplined. They would not be successful student-athletes otherwise. It has been a very good experience for us, and we will likely continue to participate in this program."
Gagarin is grateful for the summer job program and appreciative of the UFCU experience.
"The program was a great help to me," Gagarin said. "I learned how to work with others, both my peers and people more experienced than me. I learned how to have the right on-the-job manners. It was great. I enjoyed all of the people I worked with, and it gave me an idea of what career options I may have once I graduate."