By Emily Higgins '16
Bridgewater College's Faculty Athletic Liaison mentoring program is designed to enhance the integration of academics and athletics. The Faculty Athletic Liaison (FAL) serves as an academic mentor to the student-athlete within the athletic arena, and will be able to experience and understand the balance required by the student-athlete to achieve success in both their academic and athletic endeavors. Bridgewatereagles.com will be featuring its FALs throughout the coming year.
BRIDGEWATER, Va. - Dr. Jill Lassiter, Associate Professor of Health and Human Sciences, began teaching at Bridgewater College seven years ago and joined the Faculty Athletic Liaison program four years ago as another way to connect with students and athletics.
"It was kind of accidental. I try to go to as many games as I can in a variety of different sports and I was at a baseball game … Coach Kendall flagged me down and said 'want to be the FAL?' and I said 'I don't know anything about baseball but sure!'" said Lassiter.
Since then, Lassiter has taken on the role of the FAL for baseball by providing academic support for the team, helping run study sessions that are required for all freshman and others who need some additional support. She also meets with some players one on one and helps players get connected to other resources on campus. Additionally, she attends as many games as possible and sometimes leaves a treat in the dugout for the team to enjoy.
"Sometimes it's just being a cheerleader for the classroom. They have lots of cheerleaders on the field, but some people need an extra push in the classroom too. Somebody who they know believes in them, knows they can do it, and really helps to motivate them," said Lassiter about her role as the FAL.
While Lassiter believes she has impacted the baseball team in a positive way, she acknowledges that the baseball team has had just as much of an effect on her and her children, who regularly attend the games. She tells a story about her son who created a fantasy baseball team with players for each position. Players included himself, his favorite Major League players, and his favorite Bridgewater College players.
"He doesn't understand that they're not playing for the major leagues, I mean he does, but that's irrelevant to him. He looks up to them the same way he looks up to his favorite player on the Orioles and I think that is really cool," said Lassiter.
Before becoming a professor at Bridgewater College, Lassiter earned a bachelor's of science in Health and Exercise Science at Wake Forest University, a master's in education in Health Education at SUNY College at Brockport, and a doctorate in Health Policy and Education at D'Youville College. Originally she went into the field of athletic training and never thought she would become a professor. She credits two professors with guiding her into teaching.
"I had these two professors who helped me see that teaching was fun, that it made a difference, and that I could really use some of my gifts … I wanted to be like them," said Lassiter.
Before joining the Bridgewater faculty Lassiter taught at SUNY Brockport, which is larger state university. Lassiter explains why she was excited to come to a small liberal arts school where she thought she could have a real impact on students.
"I came here because I wanted to be at a small liberal arts school and a place where I could be involved in things like the FAL program and actually using my skills and not just teaching them. I get to work with student life, I get to work with athletics, and that's really what drew me to a place like Bridgewater," said Lassiter.
At Bridgewater, Lassiter primarily teaches health promotions and has two areas of research. One of them is alcohol abuse and prevention, specifically among college athletes. The second is how to encourage elementary schools to facilitate physical activity during the school day. Lassiter is the program coordinator and academic advisor for CHOICES for STEP UP, a peer-led alcohol abuse prevention and bystander intervention program, which fits into her research about alcohol abuse and prevention.
"The point of CHOICES is just to say that if you are going to drink, drink responsibly and whether you drink or not look out for each other. Athletics, I think, is the perfect place to promote this message because teams already have this culture of supporting each other," said Lassiter.
Lassiter also stated that the college has seen a drop in high risk drinking rates on campus since the CHOICES program has been established.
Besides her focus on trying to tie together her experiences with athletic training and health education, Lassiter enjoys baking cakes, volunteering at Our Community Place in Harrisonburg, and generally doing anything she can also do with her children.
While Lassiter wouldn't consider herself as being athletically gifted, she has spent a lot of time around athletics and she speaks highly of the athletic programs here at Bridgewater College that she enjoys being a part of.
"I think athletes have an advantage in that they learn a lot of skills on the field that will help them tremendously academically- they just have to apply them. So many of them do it well and that's why I think we see a lot of successes out of our student-athletes on both sides," said Lassiter.