Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
PARK, Pa. - Academic advisor Jim Weaver has a shelf in his office lined with
trophies and plaques commemorating the great athletic success his teams have
enjoyed over the years.
center on the top of that shelf sits the women's soccer 2015 National
Championship ring, framed in a glass case.
Weaver wasn't on the team roster or the coaching staff for that historical
season, but he was just as much a part of that team as Rocky Rodriguez or head
coach Erica Dambach. Ask anyone on the team.
just say I would not be graduating this December without Jim Weaver," senior
Frannie Crouse said. "Through and through he's a savior with our classes, our
scheduling and our soccer schedule. He's always there on the phone or email,
and he never lets you down."
matter of fact, ask anyone who has ever donned a women's soccer uniform at Penn
State over the years. Weaver was the academic advisor for every single one of
them. He also works with the men's and women's volleyball teams and the men's
lacrosse team at Penn State.
began his tenure at Penn State in 1993, a year before the women's soccer
program was born. He's the only staff member who has been with the team for all
a lot of programs out there that have academic advisors, but he's different,"
Dambach said. "He's different in his ownership, he's different in his
accountability, and he's different in his desires to drive them to be their
relationship with the players begins before they even enroll. He's a stop on
nearly every recruiting trip for high school prospects, and he gets started
transferring high school credits and building schedules the second they arrive
makes sure every incoming player receives eligible credits from high school
classes, then meets with them to plan their first semester. This step is
crucial for some freshman, like former player Emily Hurd, who was on the team
to Penn State with the possibility of earning 35 college credits before she
even sat in a Penn State classroom. Weaver made sure of that, and Hurd began
her quest for an early degree as a second semester sophomore based on academic
of the jump start, Hurd was able to earn an undergraduate degree in
communication arts and sciences in three years and a graduate masters degree in
higher education administration in a year and a half. Hurd said all the credit
goes to Weaver.
good at reading people and knowing what makes people tick and being able to
find passions in people by having meaningful conversations, so he was able to
lead me toward the direction of communications," Hurd said.
inspired Hurd to pursue a career similar to his. Hurd now works at James
Madison University with the Duke Club, which is similar to the Nittany Lion
Club at Penn State.
in the future she wants to work with a college athletic program as an advisor,
just like Weaver.
story exemplifies why Weaver loves his job. He said the most rewarding part of
his career is being able to help a student-athlete realize their passion and
grow to thrive in that field.
Just recently Weaver helped a women's volleyball player
land a work study with a Penn State librarian. She enjoyed it so much she might
pursue a master's degree in library studies or a similar field.
"Helping people accomplish their goals is what it's all
about," Weaver said. "The beautiful thing here is we got some people with some
serious goals. Half the time I have to tell them to settle down and take it
Weaver's everyday duties go far beyond just helping with
scheduling and finding student-athletes' passions, though.
He hosts study halls for players, teaches a first year
seminar course, proctors exams for players on the road, and makes sure a team's
Academic Progress Rate (APR) is where it needs to be.
APR is an NCAA standard that holds institutions responsible
for progressing student-athletes in the classroom. Weaver's job is to help
ensure every player is academically eligible each semester and that the team
keeps above a 0.925 APR.
Throughout his career, the teams he oversees have
consistently outperformed the NCAA standard. Even the 2015 championship team,
which was on the road all semester, earned a 3.49 average GPA.
"Women's soccer is the epitome of what this is all about as
far as success in the classroom, success on the field, and good citizens and
members of the community," Weaver said. "The staff--coach Dambach in
particular--makes my job very easy. They set the tone."
Weaver and Dambach work closely with both the academic and
athletic pieces of the players' lives. Dambach constantly checks with Weaver
about getting players tutors and making sure they're all going to class.
Weaver also sits on the sidelines for every game. He said
their ability to merge the two worlds of a student-athlete makes them so
successful both in the classroom and on the field.
Weaver's relationship with players goes beyond the
classroom and the playing field, however. Dambach said he's a genuine friend to
the team before anything else.
not just an academic advisor," Dambach said. "He is their mentor, their
teacher, their friend, their coach. His ownership is unlike anything I've ever
seen in the world of academia before."
Junior Charlotte Williams said Weaver cares about each and
every player as the person they are, not just the student or the soccer player.
been huge, not only with our academic success, but he cares about all of us on
a personal level, which is really nice to have," Williams said. "He allows our
schedules to work the way they do, especially with travel and everything so
he's been super helpful."
still maintains her friendship with Weaver, even though she rarely gets to
visit State College. When she came back for a recent Penn State football game,
she said Weaver was one of the first calls she made.
builds relationships that are lifelong. He's not just a student academic
advisor. He's a person in your life that becomes so important to you," Hurd
has different approaches for every student-athlete he works with, but his
resounding goal with all of them is to make sure they're ready to take on the
world after soccer.
a large part of the high graduation rates for Penn state athletics in recent
years, most notably the 89 percent rate last year, but he says that's just part
of his job.
two things when you're done," Weaver said. "I want you to not want to leave
because that means you just loved it here, but I want you to be prepared to