‘Student-athletes, not athletic students’

Dr. Albert Bimper

Like many college freshmen, Albert Bimper wasn’t sure where his academic path would lead when he entered CSU in 2001 on a football scholarship.

“A lot of student-athletes are first-generation college students, like me, and they are still trying to figure out their path,” Bimper said. “The people I knew who had gone to college had all majored in business, so I thought that’s what everyone did. When I got here I realized that business was not my passion, and that’s when I changed my major to health and exercise science.”

Bimper not only starred on the field for the Rams as a three-year starter on the offensive line but in the classroom. He went on to earn a master’s in Sport Psychology and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction before being named to a dual role at CSU: senior associate athletic director for diversity and inclusion and assistant professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies.

Bimper’s experiences at CSU got him to thinking about finding a way to create as much excitement about the academic side of college as the athletic for student-athletes. And he came up with a unique idea – Declare Your Major Day – that came to fruition this week.

Nearly 100 of CSU’s student-athletes, their coaches and academic supporters gathered Sunday to celebrate as Rams chose their major. Bimper called the event a “huge success.”

Unique program

“No other school has done anything like this,” he said. “It’s a cool way to get our students to think about their education and careers beyond athletics. Choosing your major should be something we celebrate.”

Football players Pierre Copeland, left, and Preston Hodges declared their majors during the ceremony.
Football players Pierre Copeland, left, and Preston Hodges declared their majors during the ceremony.

Mitch Parsons, a redshirt freshman tight end on the football team, used the occasion to announce he would be majoring in liberal arts moving forward.

“This (event) gives attention to the fact that we are student-athletes, not athletic students,” he said.

The event was treated much like national signing day, when talented high school athletes across the country announce which college they will be attending. Rams participating in Declare Your Major Day signed keepsake certificates after announcing their academic path.

‘Kind of a big deal’

“I think a lot of the kids, like myself, feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders when you declare your major,” said Haley Hutton, a softball player who declared civil engineering as her major. “This will allow you to focus on the classes that you want to take and what kind of path you want to take for the rest of your life. It’s kind of a big deal.”

Bimper was delighted with the results and plans to make the dinner an annual event. It was purposely scheduled three days before high school and transfer athletes can sign with colleges.

“I always felt as though being recognized as a student was just as important as being recognized as an athlete,” he said. “This was my way of disproving the label of ‘dumb jock.’ We have lots of great students in our department who just happen to be very good athletes. We want to celebrate both aspects.”