Competitive Edge

New program offers holistic support for student-athletes

All-around support: Eagle Edge Director Audrey Hester (center) reviews the program with student-athletes Bennett Shaw 19C (left) and Anna Fuhr 18C.
Emory Athletics

In the world of intercollegiate sports, Emory Athletics is a powerhouse, with twenty-four National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III national championships, 109 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars, 191 UAA conference titles, and 940 CoSIDA All-Americans, among other honors.

Now the program is expanding its portfolio of victories on the field and in the classroom with Eagle Edge, a program that addresses the unique challenges of the university’s four hundred student-athletes.

Eagle Edge will provide one-stop assistance to aid "student-athletes" in their academic, athletic, and personal development by holistically focusing on four core areas: support, health and well-being, life skills, and leadership and service.

While Emory student-athletes are consistent winners in sports and scholarship with the excellent support that the university already provides, Athletics Director Michael Vienna believes such support can be even better.

Eagle Edge embodies that philosophy, offering comprehensive student-athlete support and development unusual for the NCAA Division III level.

“As Emory Athletics continues to strive to be the national model for intercollegiate athletics,” Vienna says, “our intent is to take the Eagle Edge program to the next level so our student-athletes fly higher in all aspects of their growth and development.”

The initiative is the brainchild of Vienna’s predecessor, former Clyde Partin Sr. Director of Athletics Tim Downes. Vienna continued to build on the concept when he joined Emory in 2015, challenging staff to give increased focus to the program’s planning and development and by successfully securing an NCAA Strategic Alliance Matching Grant to hire staff to run it.

Audrey Hester, assistant athletics director for Student-Athlete Success and Compliance, oversees Eagle Edge.

She has spent this academic year working to grow the initiative from a source of informal assistance to a one-stop resource for more structured support that speaks to athletes’ unique needs. So far she has examined what’s already going on, conducted a needs assessment with student-athletes and coaches, and forged partnerships with other campus offices.

“With all the data I have been able to put together, I think next year we will be able to hit the ground running,” says Hester, a former four-year lacrosse student-athlete for Randolph- Macon College and an NCAA postgraduate intern.

Meanwhile, Hester acts as an advocate for student-athletes, helping them navigate campus resources. Both she and senior director of athletics Joyce Jaleel consider Eagle Edge as much a benefit to coaches as it is to student-athletes.

The program also has endorsement from members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, like Bennett Shaw 19C, who competes in cross-country and track and field. “I really like the idea,” says Shaw, a junior biology major. “It’s a good way to incorporate all the needs of athletes outside of competition.”

And what will a win look like for Eagle Edge?

“Of course, there are the formal assessments that we can do,” Hester says. “But getting an email from a student-athlete or a coach saying thanks for helping them, those are the little moments when I would count this as a successful program.”

In addition to the NCAA’s Division III, Emory’s eighteen intercollegiate teams—divided evenly between women and men—also compete in the eight-member University Athletic Association.

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