CalSO incorporates former student-athlete orientation program

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UC Berkeley’s student-athletes are now encouraged to attend CalSO after the final buzzer sounded on a separate athlete orientation program.

The campus has always invited student-athletes to participate in CalSO, but many opted for the Athletic Study Center’s orientation instead. Now CalSO has incorporated the ASC program — a decision implemented the year after the Chancellor’s Task Force on Academics and Athletics released a September 2014 report on improving student-athletes’ academic achievement.

“One of the things that was really a clear message (from the report) was just making sure that we integrated athletics into campus and vice versa,” said Ryan Cobb, associate athletic director of performance, health and welfare. “We were able to take something that was two separate things and make it into one.”

The task force report acknowledged that some student-athlete-specific programming was necessary and appropriate but noted that the campus should promote integration. Therefore, it recommended that CalSO become a fully cohesive orientation program by summer 2015.

Despite the consolidation, which aimed to further unite student-athletes and nonathletes, Cal Athletics still encouraged student-athletes to attend one of three designated CalSO dates in order to give them the greatest amount of access to athletics staff, according to Cobb. Student-athletes who went to CalSO heard a presentation on athletic financial aid, he said, and received an introduction to the athletic director and associate athletic directors.

The ASC and Cal Athletics also hosted a post-CalSO meal for student-athletes to attend, said Chrissy Roth-Francis, director of UC Berkeley’s New Student Services.

“We’re a part of the normal CalSO experience — just like students might have had in the past or student-athletes might have had in the past — just with the extra athletic content added,” Cobb said.

Stefan McClure, a fifth-year senior on the Cal football team who worked as a peer adviser at this year’s CalSO, sees the merits of both an integrated orientation and an orientation held strictly for student-athletes. McClure attended the ASC orientation his freshman year and thought it was useful because it allowed student-athletes to interact with peers who would also have to balance practices with the campus’s academic workload.

While McClure did not regret missing out on CalSO, Malik Psalms, a freshman on the football team who attended CalSO this year, found the event an enriching experience. He said CalSO groups and sleeping arrangements included student-athletes and nonathletes alike.

“I made a lot of friends over at CalSO, and I still talk to a lot of them now, even outside of the athletes,” Psalms said. “At the end of the day, we were all there for the same goal, and that was to get acclimated on campus.”

Contact Hooman Yazdanian and Andrea Platten at [email protected].