Dec. 19, 2014
The opening of The Susan & Gaylon McCollough A-Club Career and Leadership Development Center within the Bill Battle Academic Center at Bryant Hall in fall 2013 was just the first step in the Crimson Tide’s continuing efforts to provide the best support possible for Alabama student-athletes on the field, in the classroom and in preparing them for life after both. The next step came with the addition of Jessie Gardner, the Tide’s Director of Career and Leadership Development, in the spring and the development of Alabama’s D.R.I.V.E. For Success program which got underway during the fall 2014.
D.R.I.V.E. For Success is designed to actively support professional and leadership growth of current and former Crimson Tide student-athletes through practical education and comprehensive programming in preparation for success in life.
“Our program is founded on the pillars of Dedication, Responsibility, Influence, Vision and Excellence,” Gardner said. “Everything we’re doing within this program is focused on creating leaders who are ready for whatever is thrown their way after they leave Alabama.”
The program has continued to improve throughout its first semester on campus as new elements are added and feedback from all involved continue to sharpen the program’s effectiveness.
“I put together an advisory committee with representatives from the coaching staffs, compliance staff, a variety of department heads both in athletics and across campus, as well as representatives from the A-Club and our 1st and Ten Club to help evaluate what we’re doing and collaborate on how best to help our student-athletes in this crucial area going forward,” Gardner said. “We rolled out the program in August with all the teams coming back to town and throughout the fall semester things went very well. I think we’re all excited about this first step.”
At the heart of the expanded effort was a donation from Dr. Gaylon McCullough, an Academic All-American and the starting center on Paul W. “Bear” Bryant’s 1964 national championship team, and his wife Susan, with additional funding from the A-Club and football’s preexisting 1st and Ten Club.
The Susan & Gaylon McCollough A-Club Career and Leadership Development Center was then deliberately placed in the heart of the Bill Battle Academic Center at Bryant Hall, which is utilized daily by the Crimson Tide’s more than 500 student-athletes.
Some of the ways the center worked to achieve those goals during its initial semester include:
Alabama’s academic facilities for its student-athletes had already made a huge difference in recruiting, and the career and leadership center is the next step in that process as it helps coaches recruit the kinds of student-athletes who will take advantage of their opportunities and those resources
“The career development aspect of this program is huge for our student-athletes, because prior to this program their professional development support was primarily through the Career Center on campus,” Gardner said. “While their staff is phenomenal, they have 36,000 students to support. We still fully promote the campus Career Center’s resources and events even though we now have the career and leadership development program in place. They have a great staff who are passionate about helping all students. We are very fortunate to have such a strong relationship with them.
“For student-athletes who have a limited schedule and are already so busy, being able to put this career center right in the heart of Bryant Hall increased their likelihood of tapping into this support program,” Gardner said. “With the amount of time they spend here, the visibility and convenience of the career center encourages their active participation and allows me to build a personal relationship with them.”
While the program is still growing and developing, a strong start in its first semester points to a bright future for the D.R.I.V.E. For Success program which will in turn go a long way toward ensuring an even brighter future for the Crimson Tide’s student-athletes.
Leadership Classes (HES 100 and HES 275)
The D.R.I.V.E. For Success program supports both the Freshman Compass course (HES 100) and the Life Calling and Leadership Discover course (HES 275). Both courses utilize the Habitudes resource materials created by renowned leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore. Habitudes teach timeless character and leadership principles through the power of an image and conversation. Both classes included guest speaker Will Keim, who provided insight into personal development and leadership while he was on campus in the fall to visit with several Crimson Tide sports programs individually.
Emerging Tide Leaders Retreat
Dr. Tim Elmore and his Growing Leaders staff facilitated a leadership development retreat in September that focused on self-identity and building culture and community within the student-athletes’ respective teams. The event served as the kickoff event for Alabama’s Crimson Catalysts (junior student-athletes) and Legacy Leaders (senior student-athletes) groups. Gardner and her staff continue to meet with those groups once a month for the remainder of the academic year to dive deeper into developing their leadership, and empowering them to positively impact their teams and those around them through what they learn.
Resume/Cover Letter Development Workshop
The D.R.I.V.E. For Success program also hosted an engaging workshop where student-athletes walked through the process of developing a professional résumé, gained a better understanding of their career achievements, and learned how to market their accomplishments for professional opportunities. Additional content included cover letter development and helpful tips to distinguish themselves from other job candidates through their writing.
Three Career Panels were offered throughout the fall semester providing sophomore student-athletes majoring or interested in a particular field the opportunity to gain valuable insight and advice directly from panelists involved in the respective professions. The fall panels highlighted professionals in the industry of business, engineering, and education. There will be three similar panels offered in the spring. The panelists included a range of individuals from each respective college on campus, individuals from the UA Career Center, and professionals excelling in the industry.
In October, the D.R.I.V.E. For Success program hosted a career fair designed to promote connection between senior student-athletes and employers from a wide range of industries in an effort to expand their network, build confidence and nurture opportunities for professional internships or employment. A dozen companies were on hand along with more than 60 senior student-athletes. The student-athletes received education prior to the event on best practices and encouraged them to successfully interact with potential employers at the event.
The Career Fair’s participants included Regions Bank, Cintas, Mercedes Benz, Tuscaloosa Police Department, US Secret Service, US Marine Corps, Northwestern Mutual, Therapy South, E&J Gallo Winery, TEKsystems and Stryker Sustainability Solutions.
Graduate School Preparation Workshops
In November, D.R.I.V.E. For Success put on a pair of sessions designed to educate student-athletes about the graduate school process. The first session focused on the various graduate programs offered at UA and providing information to help identify whether graduate school is the direction best suited for them. The second session was geared toward student-athletes who plan to pursue graduate school. It covered the application process and its components, entrance exams, interviews, financial aid resources and program preparation.