Study assessing identity and climate for collegiate student-athletes

August 09, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- The NCAA has funded a $100,000 grant in the College of Education's Center for the Study of Higher Education to support a national project assessing student-athlete identity and campus climate.

This study builds on the results of a 2009 pilot study of a select group of NCAA institutions. More than 4,000 student-athletes from all five divisions of the NCAA have participated in the 2010 study.

“The Penn State research team has been thorough in its work and has produced findings that will assist us in our efforts to provide athletes with a supportive climate," said Mary Wilfert, NCAA associate director of health and safety.

“While a large body of research exists exploring the influence of campus climate on different student populations, student-athletes are left out of the conversation," said Sue Rankin, associate professor of college student affairs, the study’s primary investigator. "Studies such as these are a win-win. Student-athletes get a chance to reflect on their experiences, abilities, and goals -- something that in and of itself promotes learning. Athletic administrators and coaches use these findings to inform how we teach our student-athletes to play on and off the field.”

According to the 2009 pilot study:

-- Athletic participation is the number one reason student-athletes offer that they experience discriminatory behaviors that interfere with their ability to compete or learn.

-- Student-athletes tend to respond to this behavior in passive ways (i.e., ignoring it, avoiding the harasser, consider leaving the team).

-- Most student-athletes are more comfortable with their athletic programs and teams than they are with the larger campus community.

-- Student-athletes have different backgrounds and bring a variety of experiences to their intercollegiate careers. For example, compared to white student-athletes, student-athletes of color are disproportionately first-generation college students and come from low-income families.


  • Sue Rankin, associate professor of college student affairs and the study’s primary investigator.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010