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A school shows where careers are taking student-athletes

A map reflecting career achievements for Massachusetts student-athletes is displayed near the office of Joan Hopkins, associate athletics director. Submitted by Joan Hopkins

A map hangs in the student-athlete lounge in the Massachusetts athletics department, next to the heavily trafficked door at the entrance to the department’s academic area.

Above it are the words: “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

Joan Hopkins, associate athletics director for student-athlete development at Massachusetts, chose the strategic spot — the bulletin board in front of her office — for a map where she can showcase college athletes in their final year as they accept jobs, internships or graduate school offers.

For each postgraduate opportunity accepted, Hopkins adds a string to the city where the student-athlete will be based, along with a photo of the student and some details about what’s next for him or her. Hopkins created the map to recognize those with plans after graduation as part of a new program called UMASS ASPIRES. The goal is to prepare undergraduate students for life after graduation — and Hopkins hopes the map will encourage underclassmen to notice where their peers are headed and consider networking with them.

“I still believe that student-athletes look at these things,” Hopkins says, “and it motivates them to want to get their picture up there in front of their peers.”

By the end of the last school year, pins lined the East Coast, while others marked placements in California or Texas. Hopkins also had images of England and Spain on the boards to recognize a former field hockey player who is now working in Carlisle, England, as a franchise director at a nursing school, and a former tennis player who now plays professional tennis overseas.

For Hopkins, there is no better feeling than pushing a pin into the map.

“It feels like you’ve done your job,” Hopkins says. “It’s like celebrating when they win. When they win in their careers, this is also a win for us, helping them to get where they need to go.” 

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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