Iowa Women's Basketball player Ally Disterhoft
March 3, 2015
Lesanne Fliehler

Tippie undergraduate students are a diverse bunch.

Among the 2,199 students enrolled in the college this fall, one might be a direct admit freshman. Another might be a junior who just completed all prerequisites, met other admission criteria, and is now taking mostly course work that counts toward a major. Another student might be one of more than 400 international students at Tippie.

There are also Hawkeye student athletes at Tippie. This year there are 62 student athletes enrolled, each of whom hopes to graduate with a degree from the Tippie College of Business.

Not only must student athletes meet the college’s academic requirements, they also must conform to the academic requirements of the NCAA. And at Iowa, the requirements are more strict than the NCAA’s. According to Fred Mims, UI associate athletics director, student athletes must:

  • enroll in 14 credit hours each semester (NCAA requires 12),
  • carry at least two courses toward their major or general education requirements each semester,
  • declare a major by the start of their third year, and
  • maintain a four-semester plan of study.

Caught between the pressures of their coaches, advisors, and course work, how do Tippie student athletes in the Tippie College manage it all? The good news is they aren’t going it alone. Student athletes have one academic advisor and another athletics advisor. They are both crucial to the students’ success, says Mark Archibald, an advisor and assistant director of the First-Year Experience at Tippie.

“Typically, the student athlete meets with their Tippie advisor first. We’ll discuss what the appropriate classes are for the next semester, including priorities and available options,” Archibald says. “If we’ve planned out 3-4 semesters of study the athletic advisor helps the student see how the courses and their requirements will fit around their travel and practice schedules.”

One of Archibald’s goals is to make them comfortable with the pressures of working on their degree and staying eligible for their sport.

“All of that pressure is constantly on their shoulders, but they learn that the more planning they do, the less pressure they’ll feel,” he says.

Ally Disterhoft

Women’s basketball team
Sophomore accounting major from Iowa City, Iowa

Ally Disterhoft never had a problem with time management in high school, but she was worried about it coming to college.

“Everything is elevated 100 times more in college, both on and off the court,” says Disterhoft, who was the first Hawkeye freshman to be named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team. “I was nervous about whether I’d be able to manage it all and deal with the stress, basically because I’m type A and want everything to be done right. But the women’s basketball team requires that athletes spend eight hours a week at the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center during their freshman year, and that is actually really helpful.”

Sponsored by a gift from Russell and Ann Gerdin to the University of Iowa Foundation, the learning center is dedicated to student athletes’ academic success. It houses study rooms, classrooms, and a computer lab, where student athletes receive tutoring in addition to observing required study hours.

The requirement to study there meant Disterhoft was immediately in a routine of setting aside time for homework.

“Initially, I didn’t want my peers and instructors to find out I was on the basketball team and expect anything less of me because of that,” says the high school valedictorian. “I’ve taken my academic studies seriously my whole life because my motto has been ‘I’m here to be a student first and playing basketball is something I do for fun.’ Once in the class and doing group work, you prove yourself, so actions speak louder than words,” she says.

Caitlin Tanzer

Women’s gymnastics team
Senior management major from Naperville, Illinois

Caitlin Tanzer had a difficult transition to college life because she entered as a student only, not an athlete. A high school gymnast, Tanzer wasn’t on the Iowa gymnastics team her freshman year due to an injury. Having participated in gymnastics since she was six, she was unaware of how to manage the free time she had.

“I had way too much free time,” says the 2014 Academic Big Ten honoree. “It gave me more leeway to think, ‘I don’t need to do homework right now. It can wait until later,’ but that didn’t work well at all.”

During the summer, she trained and made a comeback, joining the team and competing on the beam her sophomore year. The regimen helped her succeed, and her grade-point average jumped a full point.

“I’m proud of how I’ve raised my GPA,” she says. “Being in school and in a sport, I’m constantly going, so whenever I have the opportunity, I’m either studying, practicing, or in competition,” Tanzer says. “I think I’m more efficient because I know I have to stay on top of my studies.”

Tanzer, who was lead-off on beam and competed on floor, says she shows leadership by helping her teammates in the gym and helping them learn from her early academic mistakes.

“I started off not knowing how to study, but I share with them how I study now and how it has benefited me,” she says. “I ended up with the highest GPA on the team last year.”

Mike Gesell

Men’s basketball team
Junior finance and management major from South Sioux City, Nebraska

When Mike Gesell enrolled at the university, he was a double major and a direct admit student in the Tippie College of Business. Students who qualify for direct admission have a composite ACT score of 27 or higher and a high school GPA of 3.70 or higher. (Standard admission students must take a set of prerequisite courses and meet admission criteria before enrolling in the college.)

“Being a direct admit student really allowed me to get a jump-start on some of my classes,” says Gesell, who was accepted into Beta Gamma Sigma honor society this fall. “Being a direct admit is one of the reasons I’m able to do a double major, because I was able to start taking courses toward my major right away.”

Gesell says it’s hard to meet class requirements during basketball season, but his advisors and faculty were supportive.

“My freshman year, we played in the NIT tournament, and within a span of a month, I was only in class about five days,” Gesell, who is one of three Hawkeyes to ever amass 500+ points, 200+ assists, 150+ rebounds, and 75+ steals by his sophomore season.

“I wanted to excel in the classroom and put in the hard work to be successful there as well as on the basketball court,” he says.

To make sure he stayed on top of it all, he would take makeup tests a day or two later, did lots of homework on bus trips, shared lecture notes with a friend in class, and benefited from faculty who would post their lectures online.

Both of his advisors were very helpful in initially setting up his class schedules.

“They made sure my heavier workload is in the fall and less heavy in the spring, since the team travels more then,” he says.

“My biggest concern coming to college was time management,” Gesell says. “I’m constantly treading a fine line between basketball and academics, and then wanting to maintain a social life, too. It’s been different every semester, but I go with the flow, figure out my schedule early on, and stay very organized to manage it all.”

David Ernstsson

Men’s swimming and diving team
Junior finance major from Stockholm, Sweden

Entering the university as an international student from Sweden, David Ernstsson’s biggest concern was the amount of paperwork required of an international student plus deciding his course work. He took a year off after graduating from high school where he’d chosen to study science.

“After graduation, I knew I didn’t want to do that, but wanted to study finance or economics instead,” says Ernstsson, a member of the men’s 800-free relay team that set the UI record (6:26.79). “Because I knew that, I looked through the UI course catalog and created a plan, so I was prepared when I would talk to my academic coordinators.”

Those discussions were crucial, he says.

“Having a plan and working with the advisors helped me transition into college life. There were so many things to become comfortable with,” he says. “That included learning the UI academic system, making friends in the dorms, and hanging out with my swimming teammates, which all helped me feel at home.”

Plus learning English slang, he says.

“In Sweden, everyone speaks English pretty fluently, but we’re taught school English not the slang English. I was proficient and professional in my speech,” he says, “but I wanted to be a part of this place. Learning slang English helped me adapt to the culture here, especially first semester. After that, I felt right at home.”

Speaking in front of his classmates made him nervous, but taking Rhetoric his freshman year, plus having to take the Business Communication and Protocol course in the college, gave him the opportunity to practice. He would also share his newfound skills and knowledge with his swimming teammates.

“Speaking is routine now because I studied and practiced, just like I would for an exam,” he says. “You might be lucky and do OK on a test, but practicing and then teaching someone else gives you a deeper understanding of the subject matter.”

Ernstsson has served in a leadership capacity on the team, too, helping his teammates understand what it’s like to participate in international competitions, which he did a lot of in high school and before coming to the UI.

“You’re traveling all over the world, each competition is set up differently, and you have to focus and have a routine,” he says. “You can’t let it affect you. That has helped me in college, too. If you come late to class or didn’t get enough sleep, if you’ve studied and put in the effort before that, you’ll be ready to go.”

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Other Alumni Who Were Student Athletes

Many student athletes have graduated from Tippie and made their marks in the world of business or sports. Here is just a sampling:

  • Zach Bromert (football), BBA09: sales director, Nike Running Western Europe.
  • Marv Cook (football), BBA90: former NFL football player, now head football coach at Regina High School in Iowa City; financial advisor, Marsh Cook Investment Group, Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network.
  • Garret Dunn (men’s tennis), BBA13: financial analyst in the financial planning and analysis group at Centro, a Chicago-based digital media company.
  • Adam Haluska (men’s basketball), BBA07: financial advisor, Edward Jones, Iowa City.
  • Bobby Hansen (men’s basketball), BBA83: radio analyst, Hawkeye Sports Properties and Learfield Sports; Community and Membership Development at the Better Business Bureau Iowa.
  • Chuck Hartlieb (football), BBA88: senior vice president-wealth management, UBS Financial Services, West Des Moines.
  • Chuck Long (football), BBA85: CEO and executive director of the Iowa Sports Foundation, Ames, Iowa.
  • Keith McCanless (men’s gymnastics), BBA69: member of the Hawkeye’s first national championship team in any sport; retired in 2005 as treasurer of the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corp.
  • George Nissen (men’s gymnastics), BSC37: inventor of the trampoline who made trampolining a worldwide sport (deceased).
  • Lauren Pfeiffer (field hockey), BBA09: since graduation, she has been a member of the USA Women’s National Field Hockey Team in Lancaster, Penn.
  • Marike (Maria) Stribos (field hockey), BBA14: pursuing a specialized master in finance and investments at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.
  • Steve Waite (basketball), BBA81, MBA84: former director of supply chain and business improvement with Pioneer Hi-Bred International; currently the business director of the MBA Program’s Strategic Innovation Career Academy at Tippie.