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Aug 22, 2013

Embracing Honors challenge

Student-athletes compete in the top level of JMU academics

By Meaghan MacDonald ('13)

Sierra Hahn-Ventrell

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Sierra Hahn-Ventrell ('15)
Engineering, business
Volleyball

  • Appeared in 15 matches, recording 13 digs, four service aces and an assist
  • CAA Commissioner's Academic Award Recipient
  • Smithsonian National Zoo intern

Embracing the highest values of sportsmanship and competition has benefits that extend far beyond the playing field. JMU student-athletes are supported in maintaining a balance between academic scholarship and varsity team demands.

JMU faculty members encourage student-athletes to balance competition with respect, victory with honor and contest with scholarship, and to channel the character-building power of athletics performance into a force for positive change.

JMU President Jonathan R. Alger says that during his "Why Madison?" Presidential Listening Tour many student-athletes told him that they chose JMU because of the academic program. "It is reassuring how much Madison student-athletes truly want to excel as students—in academics and organizations outside of their sport—despite the challenges of a rigorous athletics schedule," Alger says. "Their priorities are in the right place and align with the JMU philosophy that intercollegiate athletics are integrated into the overall educational mission."

A number of JMU's varsity athletes are taking their academic winning spirit to the next level as members of the JMU Honors Program. To maintain status in the JMU Honors Program, a student must maintain a 3.25 GPA and take at least one honors-level course each semester.

Rising sophomore Sierra Hahn-Ventrell ('15) of Chevy Chase, Md., told Madison magazine that the Honors Program influenced her decision to chose JMU. "My parents and I decided I had to be in the Honors Program to challenge myself academically. Without the JMU's Honors Program I may have chosen a different school," she says.

While there are both challenges and joys in being an honors student-athlete, Hahn-Ventrell is staying focused. "It will be such an accomplishment to compete in a varsity sport and complete the Honors Program," she says "I will be very proud of my accomplishments once I've completed my four years."