In the post below, molecular & cell biology and applied mathematical sciences double-major Antoine Marc ’16 describes the challenge he took on as an Honors Student and student-athlete during his time at Texas A&M, as well as the enrichment and growth that resulted from that challenge.
I am Antoine Marc, a current senior about to graduate next week, Whoop! As part of my final swan song to the university, I wanted to talk about my undergraduate journey both as an Honors Student and a student-athlete.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Texas A&M Men’s Swimming and Diving team these past five years. Five years? Yep, I’m a super-senior, taking my victory lap and enjoying A&M before I become an alum. It’s definitely being a unique experience being a student-athlete here, but it still came with its challenges. Ironically enough, I didn’t come to A&M for athletics. I enrolled at A&M as an Honors student with a goal to attend medical school. However, I couldn’t give up swimming. I dedicated my entire high school and the most of my middle school years training in hopes of competing at the NCAA level, but unfortunately, I wasn’t recruited by many Division I schools. Nevertheless, I decided to give it one more shot, and I emailed Coach Jay Holmes about a try-out. Luckily for me, he accepted. Now came the hard part, balancing life as a student and a student-athlete.
As a freshman, I lived in the Honors dorms, Lechner Hall, with my fellow Honors cohort. I decided to participate in the random roommate matching system that A&M provides. Things started off great, but as expected for young 18-year-olds living on their own for the first time the good times didn’t always last. I woke up early and had a strict schedule to adhere for athletics while he was laid back, was part of a band and worked best at night. Naturally, our schedules clashed, and that didn’t make things easy for either of us. After a couple of disagreements, we decided to make the best out of our living situation, and we managed to come up with compromises between each other’s habits and schedules. In the end, living in the dorms was a maturing process, and I learned a lot about myself as an individual.
The main challenge for a student-athlete isn’t the athletics. It’s the academics. Even though I came into college with good grades, college was a definite wake up call. Classes move fast, and once you realize you’re behind, it’s even harder to get back on track. With athletics, it compounded that effect. Balancing my time for Honors academics and athletics amidst a busy schedule was challenging. My daily routine consisted of long nights finishing homework and studying for exams knowing I had to be awake by 5:10 a.m. for practice the next morning.
During each fall, I trained non-stop to get into competitive shape, and each spring, I traveled around the country for competitions, missing days, even weeks, of school at a time. In my first two years of undergrad, I quickly got swamped and didn’t manage to get the same grades I was accustomed to in High School. However, it became easier after I decided to reach out for help.
One of the main advantages of Honors courses are the small class sizes meaning I could talk to my professors on a regular basis. Almost all of my Honors professors went out of their way to accommodate my competition and training schedule to arrange extra office hours if I needed it. The best example I can give was in my Organic Chemistry course. Our class was around 35 students, and every week instead of having assigned online homework assignments, we had weekly problem sets. Our professors encouraged a collaborative effort to solve these more complex homework assignments by scheduling an 8-11pm group session on Tuesday and Thursday nights. He would be available for questions while we work on the problem set together. Don’t be fooled, to finish these problem sets you needed to have all the students working together, attacking the problem from different approaches. Dr. Bregbreiter would have a gleeful smirk on his face when we got something wrong, but his unconventional methods of teaching made us actually learn and understand the material. Balancing swimming and Honors coursework was definitely a challenge, but looking back I’m glad went through it.
One of the unique things I’ve been able to do during my undergraduate career is holding the title as SEC Student-Athlete Representative. Because of my involvement in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, an organization on campus with a goal to facilitate an inclusive relationship between the NCAA, Texas A&M student body, and the student-athlete population, I was chosen to represent the entire SEC conference as a student-athlete representative.
As one of three student-athlete representatives for the SEC, I was able to travel to various conferences and meetings across the nation to discuss the current state of the NCAA with regards to treatment/opportunities for student-athletes. At first, these meetings were incredibly intimidating, to say the least. Usually, I was in a room with around 20 different upper administrators from various universities.
To set the scene, I was sitting next to the President of the University of Georgia, the Athletic Director of Florida, and the Commissioner of the SEC was across the table. During the meetings, everyone looked at me for input on their proposed legislation and ideas for future legislation. It may have been ignorance, by I candidly described my experience as a student-athlete, my thoughts on what was working and my feedback on what needed improving. Fortunately, they liked what I said, and I kept getting invited back to similar meetings to discuss new NCAA legislation. This past January, at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, the entire NCAA voted on those new proposals. All except one passed! I am extremely proud of my work with SAAC and the SEC. Advocating on behave of all student-athletes was my way of giving back to current and future student-athletes, so they might be able to have an even better student-athlete experience than I did.
Overall I am very fortunate to have been an Aggie. This University and the University Honors Program has given me so much and enabled me to pursue my passions both as a student and a student-athlete. I couldn’t have asked for a better undergraduate experience.
Thanks and Gig’em!
To see Marc’s athletics profile, visit http://www.12thman.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3445.