FSU launches program to help freshman student-athletes transition into college

Florida State University has created a new program designed to help its student-athletes make the most of their college years and grow into well-rounded adults.

The Seminole Leadership Program will provide incoming freshman student-athletes with tools to cultivate meaningful relationships and enhance their character development. It will cover leadership, time management and social pressures, effective communication, social responsibility and financial literacy.

“This program will help ensure that our student-athletes are maximizing their full potential by empowering them to be productive and self-sufficient,” said President John Thrasher.

Even though the mandatory program is offered through the Division of Undergraduate Studies, it is not for credit. Student-Athlete Academic Services and Athletics Student Services offer similar educational programs for student-athletes beyond their freshman year.

“Our goal is to continuously enhance the growth and development of our students with multiple programs available to them throughout their college careers,” said Ashton J. Henderson, senior academic adviser/student development coordinator for Student-Athlete Academic Services and the program’s instructor.

This semester’s program begins Tuesday, Feb. 9, and will meet on subsequent Tuesday evenings throughout the spring semester. Henderson will provide attendance records and a participation log to coaches and the athletics administration.

The program’s inaugural class has 18 students, male and female, from multiple sports at Florida State. The program will repeat each fall and spring semester.

Karen Laughlin, Florida State’s dean of Undergraduate Studies, and Stan Wilcox, director of Athletics, will address the Feb. 9 meeting. Guest speakers scheduled throughout the semester include Kaleb Thornhill, director of player engagement for the Miami Dolphins, who will discuss effective use of social media, and David Perry, FSU’s vice president for Public Safety and chief of police, who will discuss sexual assault and drug and alcohol use.

Henderson, who most recently held an associate director position with Clemson University’s football program, began work at Florida State Jan. 4.

“Ashton Henderson has a strong record of developing student-athlete-centered programming, and we are confident that this course will complement an impressive array of student-service initiatives already in place at Florida State,” Wilcox said.

Henderson earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising and a master’s in public relations from Michigan State University and played defensive back for the Michigan State Spartans from 2006 to 2009. The program will be partially drawn from a book he co-wrote, “Beyond the Gridiron: How to Successfully Transition Into Collegiate Athletics,” published in 2013.