College of Education > News and Publications > News: July - Sept. 2010 > Study Assessing Climate and Identity of Collegiate Student-Athletes

Study Assessing Climate and Identity of Collegiate Student-Athletes

A Penn State College of Education study is assessing student-athletes' perceptions and experiences pertaining to campus climate. Led by Sue Rankin, associate professor of college student affairs, the NCAA-funded national project also is exploring the impact of campus climate on both the academic and athletic success of student-athletes.

by David Price (August 2010)

University Park, Pa. -- The NCAA has funded a $100,000 grant in the College of Education's Center for the Study of Higher Education to support a national project assessing student-athlete identity and campus climate.

The Student-Athlete Climate Study (SACS) builds on the results of a 2009 pilot study of a select group of NCAA institutions. More than 4,000 student-athletes from all five divisions of the NCAA have participated in the 2010 study.

“The Penn State research team has been thorough in its work and has produced findings that will assist us in our efforts to provide athletes with a supportive climate," notes Mary Wilfert, NCAA associate director of rankin.jpghealth and safety, about the pilot study.

“While a large body of research exists exploring the influence of campus climate on different student populations, student-athletes are left out of the conversation," says Dr. Sue Rankin, associate professor of college student affairs, the study’s primary investigator.

"Studies such as these are a win-win," she continues. "Student-athletes get a chance to reflect on their experiences, abilities, and goals—something that in and of itself promotes learning. Athletic administrators and coaches use these findings to inform how we teach our student-athletes to play on and off the field.”

Some of the findings of the pilot study include:

  • Athletic participation is the number one reason student-athletes offer that they experience discriminatory behaviors that interfere with their ability to compete or learn.
  • Student-athletes tend to respond to this behavior in passive ways (i.e., ignoring it, avoiding the harasser, consider leaving the team).
  • Most student-athletes are more comfortable with their athletic programs and teams than they are with the larger campus community.
  • Student-athletes have different backgrounds and bring a variety of experiences to their intercollegiate careers. For example, compared to White Student-Athletes, Student-Athletes of Color are disproportionately first-generation college students and come from low-income families.