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Aid for Athletes Puts Red Wolves in London

3 min read

When Terry Mohajir’s college football career ended at Arkansas State University, he faced a daunting problem.

He had spent so much time in class and on the field that he didn’t have any time to devote to his marketing major beyond the scope of his classes. Mohajir knew that potential employers would seek college graduates who had been in internship or apprenticeship programs, so he decided to spend another year in college getting ready for the real world.

When Mohajir became his alma mater’s athletic director a few years ago, he decided to institute a program to help all A-State student-athletes find jobs upon graduation. The Red Wolves Leadership Academy was born.

“This is really a unique program. … No other college or university has anything like this,” Mohajir told Arkansas Business.

Each year, 50 to 60 student-athletes, both male and female, are in the program, he said. They become eligible after their sophomore year, according to Bill Smith, A-State’s executive director of marketing and communications.

Each athlete is then paired with a mentor in his or her field of study, he said, someone who will help the athlete learn about his or her prospective career choice and start the all-important networking.

Nearly all the mentors in the program work free of charge and are either A-State graduates or supporters of the program, Smith said.

During the past two years, “they’ve achieved a placement for every athlete who has participated,” Smith said.

That’s the kind of success that makes Mohajir hope other colleges will use Red Wolves Leadership Academy as a model.

Besides mentoring and internship, the academy also offers athletes the opportunity to study abroad, Mohajir said. This year student-athletes will get the chance to study in London and will receive college credit for the time spent there, he said.

Why introduce a study abroad component to the program?

Mohajir read numerous studies that showed college students who study abroad are more likely to get a job after the final stanza of “Pomp & Circumstance.” One study showed that 97 percent of college students who studied abroad got a job within a year of graduation, and those students typically earn about 25 percent more than their counterparts, he said.

It’s extremely difficult for athletes to study abroad because of their time-consuming training and game schedules. It’s been difficult accommodating so many different athletes from varying programs, but they’ve been able to make it work, Mohajir said.

The study abroad program costs about $80,000 per year and is paid with NCAA grant money and college funds and by the students themselves, he said.

Recruiting Tool

The academy has become a major recruiting tool for the college, Smith said. Student-athletes know they will have a level of support when they come to A-State that’s not available at other schools, Smith said.

“Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, all the SEC schools, the Big 12 … none of them are doing what we’re doing,” Mohajir said. “From the day you sign that letter of intent to the day you die, you’re a Red Wolf.”

The athletic department has a recruiter who travels the country seeking expanded internship opportunities for A-State athletes, officials said. The position is part time, but Mohajir hopes he’ll have someone employed full time in that role as the program continues to grow, he said.

The program also has a website.

Prospective employers around the country should be excited and supportive of a program like this, Mohajir said. Athletes are typically hard-working, focused and disciplined, and those traits are extremely valuable in the job market, he said.

Mohajir hopes other colleges and universities will adopt programs similar to the academy. Fewer than 1 percent of college athletes ever make it to the professional level, he said.

“I think this is a really innovative way to help our students … it’s a model that will carry over to other universities,” he said.

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