The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

Celebrating Black History Month with athletic academic advisor Alyssa Mathews

NKU athletic academic advisor Alyssa Matthews shares her professional success as one of the only African American women working in athletics at NKU.

February 28, 2023

Alyssa Mathews, a native of Mentor, a city in the Cleveland metropolitan area, has been working at NKU since fall 2019. She gained both her bachelor’s degree in athletic training and master’s in sports psychology from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Following the completion of her degrees, she began a two-year internship at Bowling Green State University. “It was exactly what I am doing now: advising students, and I had different teams than I do now like football and hockey. It was just an internship rather than an actual job,” Mathews said.

Athletic academic advisors are there to assist student athletes with course registration and scheduling, as well as class attendance and grades. If student-athletes need extra support, the advisors schedule tutoring sessions or study tables for that student. Athletic academic advisors must also monitor each student-athlete’s eligibility with the NCAA and ensure each athlete is ready to graduate on time.

When Mathews joined NKU, she was assigned to work with the basketball, soccer, track and field, and cross country programs. 

“I currently meet with first-year and at-risk students; we go through classes and make sure they have a good plan to complete their assignments,” Mathews said when describing her daily interactions with her students.

Will Griffith is a nursing major and sophomore on the men’s cross country and track and field team. “Alyssa is the best; she is always there to help me schedule my advising appointments and sends out regular texts to check in on our grades and to help us with anything if we are struggling,” Griffith said about having Matthews as an advisor.

Every year the NCAA sets academic benchmarks and rules for its student-athletes to follow, such as class credit and GPA requirements for each semester.

“Every year there are different rules, and students can’t be expected to know them,” Matthews said. ”That’s when Madison and I step in and make sure that students are meeting those benchmarks.”

Madison Garrott is NKU’s other athletic academic advisor and is responsible for covering baseball, softball, volleyball, men and women’s golf, as well as men and women’s tennis. She joined NKU in January 2021 from Thomas More University and has worked closely with Matthews both in their roles as advisors and on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

“I love working with Alyssa. Even though we work in different buildings we make sure to keep in touch with phone calls and text messages,” Garrott said. “It’s just the two of us covering a lot of student athletes, and so we bounce a lot off each other.”

SAAC is a committee made up of representatives from each team at NKU. The committee meets once a month to discuss specific projects as well as any concerns raised by teams or individual student athletes. The committee meetings are chaired by a member of staff, and Alyssa Mathews serves as the current SAAC chair at NKU.

Debbie Kirch, who serves as the Senior Associate Athletics Director, was the SAAC chair before Matthews and asked her to step in.

“I love helping people and seeing the enthusiasm the student athletes have at the meetings helps keep me motivated,” said Matthews. “I also wanted to help Debbie and take something off her plate,” Mathews said.

Currently SAAC is planning Victors, the annual awards ceremony where NKU recognizes the achievements of its student-athletes and staff. 

“SAAC does a lot of it, but Alyssa and I help plan everything,” Garrott said. “We want it to be student-driven, and we help them make decisions about food, backdrops, awards and the whole evening,”

As well as being the chair of SAAC, Mathews is on the advising council that meets once a month with the lead advisors from every college. “We just discuss everything that is going on and it helps keep the connection between athletics and campus,” Matthews said.

February marks Black History Month, and Alyssa Mathews is the only black woman working in athletics at NKU, besides head cheerleading coach Shayla Myles-Aaron.

“Black History [Month] to me is every day, and it should be celebrated every day. February shouldn’t be the only time we are recognizing black excellence,” Mathews said.

Mathews is grateful for the professional growth that is happening across America but hopes that more women like her can begin to work in athletic departments across the country. 

“Things are better. I mean if you look at 10, 20 years ago, the fact that I am even able to be in this space puts a perspective on things,” Mathews said.

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