Superfans: Faculty Advise, Mentor Athletes


This week, Dartmouth Now is featuring stories published in the spring 2011 issue of Dartmouth Life, which is focused on athletics. To see all the stories posted from this “Sports Special” issue, click the Dartmouth Life Sports Special tag at the end of this article.

There are about 40 faculty members at Dartmouth who, in addition to their regular responsibilities as teachers and scholars, serve as academic advisors to the College’s 34 varsity athletics teams. First introduced with three teams in 1999, the Team Faculty Advisor Program has since grown to include all varsity teams.


Professor of Economics Patricia Anderson chats with football players (left to right) Roberto Rodriguez ’14, Clayton Robbins ’14, and Justin Foley ’13 following Anderson’s class, “The Price System: Analysis, Problems, and Policies.” Anderson has served as faculty advisor to the football team for the past two years and has helped with recruiting for four. (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

Patricia Anderson, a professor of economics since 1991, has served as an advisor for the football team the past two years and has helped with recruiting for four. “Academics are important to these students—many of them have passed up athletic scholarships to come to Dartmouth,” says Anderson, who currently advises six first-year students and is a resource for any player interested in economics. (The football team has more than one faculty advisor.) “As a faculty member, one of the benefits of advising a team is that students see that we are supportive of athletics, and we want them to be successful.”

Anderson explains that a Division I athlete’s schedule can be especially demanding. “In addition to the games and practices, there are team meetings and weight training,” she says. “First-year students often underestimate how efficient they need to be with their time.” Like most faculty athletic advisors, Anderson is both an athlete and a fan herself—during high school she played on a nationally competitive soccer team, and she almost never misses a Dartmouth home football game.

John Collier ’72, Thayer ’77, is the Myron Tribus Professor of Engineering Innovation and an advisor to the women’s hockey team. He meets sophomores, juniors, and seniors for breakfast once a term, and he meets the first-year students twice a term. In addition to talking about the sport—Collier hasn’t missed a home game in six years and is an avid pond hockey player—he says the topics of conversation range from “simply how Dartmouth works,” to study abroad and internship opportunities, to graduate school and career aspirations. “It’s a lot of fun, and these students are just so conscientious and determined to make the most of both their athletics and their coursework,” he says.

“I believe that Dartmouth offers a better experience than our competitors because of our small classes and relationships with professors.”


Collier notes that it’s common for the mentoring relationship to endure beyond the students’ first year. He recently wrote a letter of recommendation for Julia Bronson ’09, and he also communicates with recent hockey alumnae Mariel Lacina ’10 and Marley McMillan ’09. Bronson, who will be attending dental school in Arizona this fall, says, “Through the past six years, Professor Collier has been an amazing advisor. He helped me create the blueprints I had in mind for succeeding in my endeavors, and he knew my accomplishments, potential, and just who I am as a person, better than any other faculty member.”

Anne Hudak, assistant athletic director for student enhancement, oversees the program along with Drew Galbraith, senior associate athletic director. Galbraith explains that an advisor’s level of involvement ranges from office meetings and emails to recruiting or traveling with the team during road games. Professor Ron Shaiko, associate director for curricular and research programs at the Rockefeller Center, even serves as an informal assistant coach to the cross country and track teams.

Most importantly, Galbraith says, professors reach out to athletes at the beginning of the year to let them know they are available. “We want athletes to make the right decisions and ask the right questions. The advisors are better communicators than we are about the classroom experience and academic expectations. They’re tremendous assets.”

Galbraith also notes that the only remuneration professors receive are free tickets to their team’s home games. When asked why she devotes her time to the program, Anderson says, “I believe that Dartmouth offers a better experience than our competitors because of our small classes and relationships with professors. I want to help provide that experience.”

Steven Smith