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Celebrating Student-Athlete Academic Success

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's brand new Morgan Academic Center received a few more updates Monday evening as the Nittany Lions unveiled a reflection of its most recent success in the classroom. Hosting its first academic center celebration, Penn State flipped a trio of academic totals, revealing its honors through the fall semester.

In a unique ceremony, Penn State director of athletics Sandy Barbour, NCAA faculty representative Linda Caldwell and CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Haleigh Washington (women's volleyball) and Tyler Yazujian (football) all participated in the total changing event. 

A central piece of the Morgan Academic Center, the far north wall includes a large set of numbers fixed near the ceiling, reflecting Penn State's NCAA graduation rate, all-time CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and all-time Academic All-Big Ten honorees.

While maybe just numbers to an average visitor off the street, the totals serve as a visual reminder to all Penn State student-athletes, coaches, staff and guests, displaying a total commitment to academic success.

"It's part of Penn State's DNA," Barbour said. "It's part of our success with honor, it's who we are, its always been a part of our culture, its always been a part of the standard here and I certainly as the athletic director today, want to make sure I do my part to uphold that. So it's going to be a huge priority for us every day."

Together, Washington, Yazujian and Caldwell all boarded a mechanical lift to take two trips to the top of the wall to peel off the old set of numbers, proudly revealing a new set of numbers each of which showing a positive increase.

In November, the NCAA released its annual national graduation rates study, which revealed that Penn State student-athletes earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 89 percent compared to the 84 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2006-07 through the 2009-10 academic year. The 89 percent graduation figure was just one point off Penn State's 90 percent all-time graduation record mark and one point higher than last year's figure. 

Both Washington and Yazujian earned Academic All-America honors this fall, marking the second time each has received the prestigious honor. Penn State's 195 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans ranks 5th among NCAA institutions from all divisions and 4th among all Division I schools. 

Penn State also saw a total of 78 Academic All-Big Ten honorees among seven fall sports this past semester, brining the Nittany Lion total to 5,654 selections since joining the conference in 1991-92. The mark also leads all Big Ten institutions.

The Nittany Lion commitment to academic achievement isn't something that yields success by one single individual, but rather as Barbour noted, a group of people who all believe in the same rich tradition.

"It's not like you have a really good academic year and it's like 'okay we're done, we're there,' it's an every day thing and I'm really proud of the effort of student-athletes, our coaches, our faculty, our staff, our Morgan Center advisors, it's definitely a team effort," Barbour said.

For Washington, the support not just in terms of athletic performance, is what makes all the difference.

"It's so cool that we have such a strong University that supports everything that we do," Washington said. It's really amazing that they don't just push us to be really good on the court or on the field, or wherever we're playing, they push us to be good in the classroom and it's amazing to have a support system like what we have at Penn State."

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Check out a few more notes on Penn State's academic achievement.

- Twenty-eight Penn State student-athletes from 11 sports earned their degrees in December 2016, bringing the total number of graduates to 153 since last May. 

- The NCAA also released in November the federal graduation rates for students and student-athletes as it has for the past 26 years. The four-year federal graduation rate average for Penn State student-athletes was 78 percent, No. 3 among Big Ten institutions, and significantly above the 66 percent Division I average.

- The NCAA data revealed student-athletes from seven Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent, an increase of two from last year's five teams. The seven Nittany Lion squads posting perfect graduation scores were: men's basketball, field hockey, women's golf, women's gymnastics, men's soccer, softball and women's tennis.

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