Focus on the Future
UC Davis is making professional development an integral part of a student-athlete’s college career.
“If your identity as an athlete isn’t the most salient thing in your life, you’ll be healthier, better balanced,” said Mike Lorenzen, senior associate athletics director. “We try to encourage that you are more than an athlete and a student expecting good grades.”
Lorenzen heads the Aggie EVO program (EVO abbreviates “evolution”), mandatory for all student-athletes. It was first implemented in the 2017–18 academic year, with the aim of “launching” participants into post-graduation careers.
The program fosters professional development through activities like LinkedIn profile creation, informational interviews with alumni, résumé review and quarterly check-ins with academic advisors. Such tasks focus on helping student-athletes navigate the breadth of available jobs and find fulfillment outside of sports.
The challenge, Lorenzen said, is convincing participants that their sport has given them a unique skill set employers want. Many student-athletes have never held jobs, making résumé writing daunting. The Aggie EVO team strives to communicate the program’s opportunity for personal and professional growth to strengthen student-athletes’ faith in their abilities off the field.
Track and field hurdler Jonathan Perry, a senior majoring in managerial economics, said he didn’t immediately realize Aggie EVO’s value. “Mike went to the track to introduce the program. I was honestly a bit reluctant, because I was focused on practice,” he shared. He eventually sat down with Lorenzen to discuss his professional goals, and through informational interviews, he was able to shadow a wealth manager. “This program made things realistic,” he said. “It bridged the gap between possibility and ‘how am I going to make this a reality?’”
Perry stressed the program’s networking benefits, while swimmer Aislinn Dresel ’18 credited its help in leveraging her athletic career into a job analyzing data for FTI Consulting’s litigation. “One-on-one advising with Mike really helped me figure out who I wanted to become and how to tell my story,” she said.
Both Perry and Dresel will join the EVO pro alumni network to help future student-athletes, building toward Lorenzen’s ultimate goal: the program’s longevity.
“If somebody else walks in and the program keeps going, then gets better, impacting future generations of Aggies to have a greater chance of launching into meaningful lives,” said Lorenzen, “then we did our job.”