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EDITORIAL: Athletic abroad fund fails to meet educational goals

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When deciding to study abroad, students face the financial burden of travel, housing and food on top of the normal tuition price. Marquette, unlike many other schools its size and other Jesuit universities, does not offer scholarships specifically designated for study abroad.

However, student athletes, who in most cases, wouldn’t have the availability in their schedules to study abroad for a semester, are going to get that scholarship opportunity, except with not as many benefits.

A crowdfunding campaign through the Blue and Gold Fund announced an international travel fundraiser for student athletes to travel abroad to play their respective sports for short-term trips. Marquette’s Athletic Department paired with an advertising and public relations class in the College of Communication to promote the travel fund. The ADPR 4953 seminar class requires teams of two or three students to create and implement a social media strategy for nine different media projects.

Tim Cigelske, who teaches the advertising and public relations class, said the funds are specifically designated to help alleviate travel costs.

Crowdfunding has also been used to provide funds for various academic trips, such as engineering robotics students competing in Brazil, Engineers Without Borders and the Human Powered Nebulizer. However, these trips are academic or for applying learned skills to a project taken abroad. In the case of athletic trips, no education skills are being applied, making these trips seem like nothing more than tourism to promote the athletic department brand.

Athletes abroad only play their respective sport and briefly check out the new environment. When the women’s basketball team traveled to France and Italy for 10 days last summer, they played four games and visited historical sites, according to the program’s fundraising page.

A 10-day trip to two Western European countries with a group of close friends and adult supervisors does not provide the athlete enough time to learn about or immerse themselves in a new culture much less understand the customs. Additionally, the athletes do not take any classes about the countries they are visiting before leaving or class while they are abroad.

The fund raised $235 on the first day of fundraising and has not been contributed to in the last five days. This is a mere nine percent of the overall goal amount of $2,500 with 15 days of fundraising left.

In August, the men’s basketball team will take a trip similar to the one women’s basketball team took to France and Italy last summer. The trip has been planned and will go forward regardless of if the fundraising goal is met or not. The fund’s description details that it is for all sports teams yet only men’s and women’s basketball have gone on or planned an international trip.

Student athletes should be given the opportunity to study abroad, but this doesn’t suffice that goal. The benefits of studying abroad are to experience and immerse oneself in a new culture and to take classes that are not offered at Marquette. These athletic trips do not provide the same benefits as academic trips, making their purposes a little unclear and the lack of study abroad scholarships even more confusing.

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One Response to “EDITORIAL: Athletic abroad fund fails to meet educational goals”

  1. Brian on April 25th, 2015 6:23 am

    As an employee at Marquette, I was disappointed to read your editorial on the crowdfunding campaign for international travel for our student-athletes. Your viewpoint does not represent the “can-do” outlook of Marquette students that I’ve grown to love in my work here. Our student-athletes at Marquette (not just basketball players), are extremely dedicated to representing Marquette in their sport, so much so that typical study-abroad options are not feasible. The international trips for the teams, while not a semester-long study-abroad experience, do provide important opportunities for student-athletes to gain exposure to different cultures and represent Marquette along the way, not merely “tourism”. The fact that the Blue & Gold Fund is raising money from donors should be applauded, as it ensures that other students’ tuition dollars are not paying for student-athletes international trips. Just because there are currently no scholarship funds specifically to offset study-abroad travel expenses, does this mean that student-athletes should not have donor-supported international trips? Someone with a “can-do” outlook would say, “Let’s work to expand this idea and ask donors start a scholarship fund for travel expenses for study-abroad!” You even point out that past crowdfunding campaigns at Marquette have been supportive of providing international travel opportunities, thanks to the “can do” attitudes of students and donors inspired to support them. Keep in mind that the university awards more than $120 million in scholarship aid to Marquette students annually and is always working hard to increase that amount. These creative crowdfunding campaigns help share inspiring stories and raise money in a creative way.

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