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Student-Athletes Share Stories of Academic and Athletic Balance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., March 28, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- At Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, athletics took center stage. Six student-athletes stepped forward to share their day-in-the-life experiences, and Chancellor Carol L. Folt outlined six areas in which the University plans to better serve student-athletes moving forward.

Student athlete Marcus Paige answers a question during the meeting of the Board of Trustees 3/27 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In background are Lori Spingola and Kemmi Pettway. Photo credit: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Shaping what it means to be a truly great research university involves examining areas that span commercialization, innovation and translational research," said Folt. "It is equally important to look at student activities and the insight that provides for what students truly care about – including athletics."

The student-athletes who spoke to the board – a mix of scholarship recipients and a walk-on, revenue and non-revenue players, journalism and science majors – described their already-positive experiences.

Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Switzer said football has helped him better manage his time and given him athletic and academic opportunities he might not have had otherwise. "Playing a Division I sport takes a lot of time, but we love it," he said.

Besides developing the self-discipline and organizational skills a CEO would covet, student-athletes learn that leadership applies to everything they do, not only in their sport but also in the broader community and throughout their lives.

Senior softball pitcher Lori Spingola worked to create Champions for Change as a way to integrate people with disabilities into the community. The journalism and mass communication major spoke to trustees about the partnership with the ARC of Orange County that culminates with an invitation to children with disabilities and their families to tour Carolina's facilities, wear the jerseys of past players and even throw the first pitch in a game.

Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige, who hails from Iowa, said he chose Carolina over other universities because of the emphasis on academics in Chapel Hill – something his mother, who is a teacher, drilled into him early on.

"I came here because of the quality of the basketball program, of course, but it was also the way Coach [Roy] Williams cares about us off the court and prepares us," he said. "Our schedule is so crazy, but we do all this because we love it. And off the court, we have an academic support staff like no other."

Also addressing the trustees were senior cornerback Tim Scott, an exercise and sport science major; gymnast Michelle Ikoma, a senior biomedical engineering and economics major; and first-year football walk-on Kemmi Pettway, who was redshirted this year.

Folt said she appreciated the student-athletes' candor because hearing from them was important to understanding how all students can reach their full potential at a top research university like Carolina.

Like all Carolina students, she said, student-athletes face many time constraints, and the key is balance. "The University needs to continue in every possible way to help them negotiate that balance," Folt said.

The trustees showed their overwhelming support for the group, and Chair Lowry Caudill thanked all of the student-athletes for the joy and excitement they bring to Carolina.

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SOURCE University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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