Athletes' Adviser

Amelia Noel '92 discovered her career over a meal in Leverett House, when she realized that she enjoyed helping her athlete friends navigate Harvard's network of academic-support organizations. Now, a decade after graduation, as Indiana University's associate athletic director for student-athlete services, she works with the school's 650 varsity athletes to ensure that each one is achieving in the classroom as well as on the court. Indiana has long prided itself on the superior academic achievement of its athletes and Noel's program is the cornerstone of that project.

Amelia Noel guides Indiana University's players.
Photograph by Rachel Axsom
Because scholar-athletes are the only students required by the university to miss class (a component of participating in their extracurricular activities), they face a unique set of challenges in college, Noel explains. Indiana, like many universities, provides extensive tutoring programs for its athletes, but that is only the beginning. Her office provides advising and career planning and teaches skills like time management and organization — as well as offering a quiet place for athletes to work and study. The office also helps students coordinate with their teachers to find a way to balance academics and athletic practices and games. "We wouldn't survive without extensive faculty support," Noel says: faculty members help the athletes keep their studies in perspective, which — especially at a Big Ten school like Indiana — can be very difficult at times.

A decade ago, at Harvard, Noel earned four varsity letters as manager of the men's swim team. After graduation, she took a job with the Women's Sports Foundation, which opened her eyes to the wide range of issues involving Title IX athletics. As she began looking around the country at athletic programs and graduate programs, she was drawn back to her native Indiana and the university, where her parents had met in graduate school. She took a job in the academic advising office, then run by the legendary Elizabeth "Buzz" Kurpuis, who oversaw one of the best programs in the country. Kurpuis became Noel's mentor; when she retired late in 2000, Noel — who had recently defended her dissertation and earned her Ph.D. from Indiana in educational policy — took over her job in January 2001.

Although Noel says she was initially wary of advising's "touchy-feely" nature, she soon found that her office was anything but. There is no hand-holding at Indiana: athletes must make an effort to achieve and succeed on their own. "Sometimes the students need a little bit of a kick in the butt, as well as a supportive environment, and we provide both," she notes, matter-of-factly. Interacting with the athletes, she says, is the best part of the job for her — she keeps in touch with Indiana players when they turn professional and encourages them to continue their education. A box in her office is stuffed full of their thank-you notes.

~Garrett Graff  

Read more articles by: Garrett M. Graff

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