Academic Survival
April 29, 2023

7. Empowering ASU's Student-Athletes: A Deep Dive with Jean Boyd & Alonzo Jones

7. Empowering ASU's Student-Athletes: A Deep Dive with Jean Boyd & Alonzo Jones

Are you looking for ways to ensure optimal academic and athletic performance? Jean Boyd and Alonzo Jones have the answer for improved balance and support for student athletes to achieve their success.
In this episode:
• Discover comprehensive strategies for nurturing both academic and athletic accomplishments among student-athletes.
• Uncover the complexities of identity formation and transformation in student-athletes.
• Learn the art of juggling academics, athletics, and societal expectations during college.
• Delve into the effects of name, image, and likeness (NIL) in the realm of college sports.
• Explore the world of student-athlete advocacy, philanthropy, and social justice initiatives.
Special Guests: Jean Boyd and Alonzo Jones
Join Dr. Shandra L. McDonald as she speaks with Jean Boyd and Alonzo Jones about empowering student athletes at Arizona State University. Jean, the Deputy Athletic Director, has firsthand experience as a former student-athlete and uses that knowledge to support and create opportunities for the next generation. Alonzo, the Associate Athletic Director for Championship Life, focuses on guiding students in developing essential life-skills and leadership qualities. Together, they strive to ensure that student athletes at ASU can excel both on the field and in the classroom.

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Student-Athlete Support System
In today's competitive world, student-athletes need a solid support system to help them manage the demands of both academics and sports. A successful support system should provide the necessary resources to help student-athletes succeed academically while also allowing them to excel in their sports. These may include academic tutors, mental health professionals, and physical trainers. Additionally, a support system should cater to the unique needs of each student-athlete, recognizing their personal strengths and weaknesses. Jean Boyd and Alonzo Jones discussed the importance of a holistic support system for student-athletes at Arizona State University. They shared how proactive measures, like providing tailored assistance in time management, study skills, and well-being, can help ensure a student-athlete's success. By focusing on individual student needs, they demonstrate their commitment to not only athletic but also academic success, leading to high retention and graduation rates for these students.

Balancing Multiple Roles and the Matrix of Decision Making
Managing multiple roles and identities, such as a student, athlete, and socialite, can be challenging for college students. Developing a sense of situational identity and understanding the different roles one has in different contexts can be a valuable tool for maintaining balance. The challenge lies in recognizing the legitimacy of each identity and making intentional and mindful decisions that align with one's values and goals while navigating various situations. Alonzo Jones introduces the concept of situational identity during the interview and emphasizes its importance for student-athletes. Both Boyd and Jones note that understanding and navigating these various roles can lead to success beyond sports and into leadership positions in any field. By replicating behaviors that contribute to their success, discarding habits that no longer serve them, and adopting new behaviors aligned with their goals, student-athletes can find balance in their lives.

Top Three Struggles for Student-Athletes
The top struggles student-athletes face are: (1) balancing the demands of athletics, academics, and personal relationships; (2) the incongruency of professional aspirations and academic demands; and (3) mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. To help mitigate these challenges, it is crucial for universities to provide resources and support systems that empower student-athletes to thrive academically, athletically, and personally.

Timestamped Episode Summary:
00:00:05 - Introduction:
Dr. Shandra McDonald introduces the podcast and the guests, Deputy Athletic Director Jean Boyd and Associate Athletic Director Alonzo Jones from Arizona State University, who discuss student-athlete support systems.

00:00:12 - College Student Dropout Rates:
Stats show that 40% of students drop out of college every year, with nearly 30% dropping out in the first year. The host aims to improve these stats.

00:00:39 - Name, Image, and Likeness:
With the era of athletes earning millions, why is the school part even necessary? Jean Boyd discusses student-athlete name, image, and likeness (Episode Teaser).

00:01:45 - Student-Athlete Support Systems:
Arizona State University creates a holistic support system for student-athletes, evaluating each individual's background, strengths, and weaknesses. The university provides structured time for study, one-on-one support for study and time management skills, and continually monitors attendance.

00:12:05 - Accompanying Onboarding Process:
The guests discuss the accompanying onboarding process for student-athletes, taking into account the mental and emotional challenges faced by young people in the COVID-19 era. Arizona State University provides support for retention and graduation rates for student-athletes.

00:17:12 - Complex Dynamics of Identity Association:
Legislation allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness is creating complex dynamics.  Discussion around identity association, particularly for young minority men who often see athletics as their primary path to success.

00:18:11 - Support Programs:
Student-Athlete Support program encourages student-athletes to balance multiple identities, including being a student, athlete, and employee. It is important to prepare for the future while still owning the moment, and support programs aim to help young athletes navigate newfound freedoms.

00:23:07 - Matrix of Decision Making:
The decision making matrix helps young athletes understand the different identities they hold and how they can balance them. By acknowledging the various identities and their legitimacy, student-athletes can make better decisions and lead with their student self in an intellectual environment.

00:27:27 - Situational Identity:
Understanding situational identity is key to making good decisions in different environments. Student-athletes must understand that their physical location and the identity that best serves that environment should guide their behavior. This framework can help them navigate different spaces throughout their lives.

00:29:02 - Balancing Multiple Roles:
The importance of balancing multiple roles extends beyond the college years. The situational identity framework can help individuals navigate different roles and spaces, whether as a student, maturing adult, or caregiver. It is important to understand which identity best serves the situation to make informed decisions.

00:33:29 - Austin Case and Student-Athlete Incentives:
The Austin Case was a case where a student sued for not receiving academic awards like they did for athletic achievements. This has led to student athletes being incentivized to attend programs.

00:35:17 - Student-Athlete Support Programs:
Student-athlete support programs are completely voluntary by the host institution and can be tied to high academic performance and co-curricular engagement. Not every institution is doing it, but a good percentage are.

00:36:53 - Top Struggles for Student-Athletes:
The top three struggles for student athletes are incongruency between professional and academic aspirations, mental health issues, and balancing all the things on their plate.

00:44:57 - Hope for the Future:
The human species is dynamic and ever-evolving. With unlimited resources at our disposal, we can create unprecedented perceived realities for ourselves as a society. With some instruction, guidance, and framing, we can continue to do great things together as a society in this country and in this world.

00:51:15 - Share Your Story:
Listeners are encouraged to reach out to the host at to share their own experiences and stories of surviving their first year of college.

Episode Resources:






Shandra McDonald [00:00:05]:

This is the Academic Survival Podcast, and I'm your host, Dr. Shandra McDonald. Statistics show that approximately 40% of students drop out of college every year. In fact, nearly 30% drop out their first year. Well, I am on a mission to improve these stats.

Jean Boyd [00:00:34]:

So how do you intentionally challenge those individuals? Well, now we're in an era where you're kind of doubling down profit wise on the idea that you're a baller and you're worth millions of dollars, and you're getting that money right now without even being a professional athlete. So why is the school part even necessary? Right.

Shandra McDonald [00:00:57]:

That's Jean Boyd, Deputy Athletic Director at Arizona State University. He's joining me today on the Academic Survival Podcast, and I am so excited. Also joining me is Alonzo Jones, Associate Athletic Director for Championship Life, also at Arizona State University. Together, we have a great conversation about student-athletes name, image, and likeness and how Arizona State has created a holistic support system to help student athletes manage the demands of both academics and sports. Jean and Alonzo's commitment to not only athletic success, but also to academic success is leading to high retention rates and high graduation rates for these students. Join me as we talk all about student athletes.

Shandra McDonald [00:01:52]:

Welcome to the Academic Survival podcast. Today I have with me live Jean Boyd, who is the deputy athletic director for the Arizona State University.

Jean Boyd [00:02:05]:

That's right.

Shandra McDonald [00:02:06]:

I also have with me Alonzo Jones, AJ. And he is the Associate Athletic Director for championship Life at Arizona State. I'm sorry, at the Arizona State University. So welcome to academic survival. I'm so excited to have both of you here.

Alonzo Jones [00:02:24]:

Shandra, thank you for having us. Real glad to have you.

Jean Boyd [00:02:27]:

Really excited. We'll probably go into it, but her and I have a very long history. We went to high school together.

Shandra McDonald [00:02:35]:


Jean Boyd [00:02:35]:

A wonderful experience then. And it's incredible to see what you've done with your adult life, as I'm still trying to figure mine out.

Shandra McDonald [00:02:46]:

Yes. Jean was there when I officially got baptized, as they say, running the hurdle. So, you're not a true hurdler unless you fall during a race. And he was there when I officially got baptized as a hurdle.

Jean Boyd [00:03:01]:

Indeed, I saved my baptism for my very last race in high school, which, unfortunately, would have qualified me to go to the state meet. But we all have our highs and lows, and we learn from them.

Shandra McDonald [00:03:13]:

It's part of why we're here. Yes. All right, so let's get started here. I want to know a little bit about your journey in terms of how you ended up at Arizona State University in the positions that you're in and what you actually do there in those positions.

Jean Boyd [00:03:33]:

I'll defer to you. Go ahead and start.

Alonzo Jones [00:03:36]:

Yeah. Thank you so much. Shandra, I'm a first-generation kid. My dad was a military guy, but he put tremendous value on education, I think, in part because what he was not able to accomplish simply for lack of a degree. He was an enlisted guy, achieved the highest ranks in the military, but realized that it wasn't his competency, it was the absence of a credential. So, he put a lot of priority on education for me. And so, it wasn't a matter of if I was going to go to college, it was a question of where. And so, I had some family members out in Arizona. We went and visited a few schools, and we just happened to have some connections here. I was able to connect up with some mentors and some people who really looked out for me right away. And so, ASU was kind of my destiny. And so, I was an undergrad here in 86 through 91. And then my first job was also at ASU in the admissions office, representing recruiting other first-generation folks, and had been in higher ed with the exception of five years in Texas. Always at ASU. And then I don't know Jean, as long as you all know each other, but Jean and I go back probably 30 years or close to 30 years, and we'd always been sort of colleagues in the space of male uplift and development. And about eight years ago, he invited me to join Sun Devil Athletics to play the life skills role, and I jumped at the opportunity. So, ASU was a place for me coming of age, culturally, intellectually. My social system is here. This is what I call home. And so, it's an honor to have went here, but also to work here, trying to be relevant to the lives of people in front of us.

Shandra McDonald [00:05:17]:


Jean Boyd [00:05:19]:

Outstanding, AJ. Thanks. Thank you, Shandra, for having us. And it's always interesting when you are connected with people. I'm looking in two boxes that I'm connected with both people for quite some time. And the journey, right? The journey that we have, the pathway, the things that we encounter and overcome to be where we are today. But grew up in inner city south of Los Angeles, Compton, North Long Beach. Ultimately paramount. And after graduating from Paramount High School, one of the things that we were talking about beforehand didn't have any scholarship opportunities and went to community college, which is a pathway of continuance of higher education, for sure. Spent a year and a half at Cerritos College in Norwalk, California, and then was blessed and fortunate enough to have multiple scholarship opportunities. So, I got to kind of pick and choose what kind of environment I wanted to step into next and had never really spent any time in Arizona at all. And to this day, people kind of go, what? You chose Arizona State over Cal Berkeley? And I did, based off of a number of variables and factors. But like AJ said, it was a transformative life experience where I came of age as a man, as an intellectual, if I dare call myself that, as a practitioner. And as someone who really wanted to use the idea that sport and education could work together to advance people in life beyond the game, beyond the game of sport, beyond the context of sports, into leadership roles, and essentially in any type of capacity that someone might be interested in. And so that's been the life's work here in Arizona State and also through a nonprofit organization that I was a co-founder of with a couple of incredible colleagues called Scholar Baller. So here we are today.

Shandra McDonald [00:07:34]:

Yes, and so thankful that you're here. So, my first question is I remember when we were in high school, they had lunchtime learners, remember, where basically if your grades were not good, then they didn't want you to get kicked off the team, so they put a system in place for you to get your grades up. And that system was lunchtime learners. And to me, I thought it was always kind of an embarrassment to end up in lunchtime learners, but it served a purpose. I think. I was probably there only once. But I know that once students who are athletes, once they graduate from high school and they're going to college on a scholarship or going maybe not on a scholarship, basically going there to be an athlete. I want to know what kind of systems are there to support them, to make sure that they don't fall through the cracks. Because for them, academically, if they are not performing, then they don't just lose that opportunity to get the education. It's twofold, right? They're not on the team and they're losing their opportunity potentially for that education. So what kind of system do you have in place at Arizona State? At the Arizona State to make sure that students who arrive can actually stay, thrive and graduate?

Jean Boyd [00:09:04]:

Absolutely. And AJ and I will toggle back and forth in this piece because there's a lot of interchangeable parts to how a university of this size and status, and we're at the highest level of college sport, loosely titled Power Five, Pac Twelve. We compete against schools such as Stanford, Cal, Berkeley, UCLA, USC, although they have opted out and are going to the Big Ten here in about a year and a half. But an institution like this has a responsibility to create a program, create tools and resources, and a structured way by which student athletes can be onboarded. And I'll hand back to AJ to talk a little bit about that onboarding process, but then also put into a structured system that, number one, evaluates who they are as a student. So, there's a process by which and it's scientific, it's been developed and designed with practitioners and academics and psychologists to understand who the student is, what their background is, what are the variables in their life history that has brought them to this point, and what are the so-called strengths and weaknesses, right? So that's kind of the starting point, is understanding some of the unique things about each individual student-athlete. And then based on that evaluation, there is a structured approach for each individual student-athlete as well, where there's structured time, where that's designed in their schedule for study. There's structured time where they can work one-on-one with someone on just not only their study skills, but also their time management skills. Right. When you're balancing being a student and an athlete and, in some cases, working or think about the situations where someone might already be a parent, it's a juggling act. And having time management skills, organizational skill development, and then the academic support each individual situation we look at independently and then create a pathway forward where if you're a freshman, you're probably going to have a minimum of 8 hours of structure per week that you are accountable for. So, if you're not there, the alarm sounds off and the coaching staff is communicated with literally like Jean's not here, and then now you're getting text and phone calls and if you're going too long, someone will come find you. Right. That's the links that these athletic departments go to, whether you're on scholarship or not, to ensure that that structure is firm from the beginning. AJ, talk a little bit about kind of the accompanying onboarding process that happens as well. Because Shandra, it's more than just academics. As you know, there's your psyche and your mindset, and we're living in a new era of humanity. Post COVID, post George Floyd, for especially those of us who are Black and or African-American, however we identify, it looks and feels different. And the technology era as well has created some dynamics that are different from a mental and emotional standpoint for young people. So, AJ, talk about how we speak to that. Bringing them on.

Alonzo Jones [00:12:38]:

Yes, it's a great question. If you were to look at institutional data sets and then look at least our institution, we're fortunate to often have higher retention and ultimately quicker graduation rates for our student-athletes. And it speaks directly to the level of support, which is also interesting that if you have communities of students who are not being retained and graduated at an institution, what models are doing it successfully? And athletic programs, because you have them from literally recruitment through graduation, has found a sweet spot in terms of supporting students across all backgrounds and life circumstances. And so, if you think about success, it's being supported, right? Mentor, tutoring, but it's also being welcome, embraced and oriented to what it means to be a student in this particular place. And so, we run three orientation programs over the course of a year to align with the cycle of starting both fall, spring and summer. And in those orientations, a part of it is high fanfare welcome activities, embrace Sun Devil Way, those kinds of activities, but it's introducing them to the resources, to our value system as a department, but also the do's and don'ts of the environment. And it's sort of setting the stage as to what the expectations are, where the opportunities are for cocurricular experiences, which is the life skill side of the house, how they'll be supported, academic integrity, all the kinds of things that you need to understand being in a new place such as a university is this. And we talk about coping dynamics for the freshmen. We'll do some tutoring, workshops, we'll do some writing dynamics, listening skills, time management, those kinds of things. And then we also realize that the collegiate experience is more than just sport in the classroom. So, we have a host of co-curricular activities that we share with them that are for their own edification and benefit. It could be around finances, social media, representation, cultural communities, celebrations, those kinds of things, as well as a lot in the name, image and likeness space, budgeting, taxes, credit. And then we have a pretty aggressive career readiness program, particularly for our upper classmen. So, within an intimate setting, you have roughly about 650 student-athletes being supported with a couple of hundred staff, but with a high concentration of academic support to ensure that they're not falling through the cracks. And we have the benefit of accountability factors, as Jean talked about. So, if you look at assessment, high support, high welcome, continuous engagement, day to day monitoring, that has proven to be successful and something that it would take investment, but could be replicated across other departments, assuming they had a cohort capacity to lock their arms around a group of students.

Shandra McDonald [00:15:32]:

Wow, that's awesome. And I noticed first when Jean said it, I like that they're referred to as student-athletes. When I was in high school, I thought of myself as an athlete, and obviously I was a student, but I like the intentionality of like, they're in this college space. But let's not forget why you're here. You are a student. You can't just come and do the sports part, right? You can't just come and be the athlete. You have to be a student-athlete. And are you finding that you are successfully transitioning the mindset to where coming out of high school, I would imagine that many of them saw their identity mostly as athlete. So are you successful in transforming their mindset in terms of recognizing that this particular situation you're a student, but you're a student-athlete.

Jean Boyd [00:16:31]:

Shandra, that's an ever-evolving proposition, if you will, for these institutions. I intentionally identified that we're at a certain level of college athletics, and the reason that I did is the student-athlete experience. The caliber of student athlete is Olympian in many cases, potential professional athlete in a lot of cases. And in that realm, in the era that college athletics is transforming into Alonzo mentioned name, image and likeness, the idea that you can profit this is only less than two years old. This legislation that allows you to profit off of your name on the back of your jersey, your number, your image, a picture of you, your likeness, that is even more creating more complex dynamics around this identity association.

Alonzo Jones [00:17:32]:


Jean Boyd [00:17:33]:

So, if we think about the spaces that we all probably collectively grew up in, primarily minority. Shandra if you think about a lot of the let's just take the men, the African American men that we went to high school with. There's a book called Darwin's Athletes that says that in a lot of black communities, for males, their three ways out or their three ways towards success would be athletics or entertainment, rapping or singing or acting, entertainment or the dope game. Those are the three primarily identified ways. Intrinsically, even in some of those communities, they don't see these other options. They don't see a doctor in their household. They don't see a teacher, per se, in their home front. They go to a school where there's a teacher. Right. So, this overidentification with. Being an athlete, for example, has always been something that we've had to work hard and intentionally, especially amongst our Black male student athletes, to really kind of jar them and shake them through the door. Like, hey, man, the percentages of someone who actually goes on and does that is so minute that if you're not preparing to be something else, you're wasting time, money, energy, and maybe a better life for you and your family by not taking advantage of this. That's where this idea of being a scholar and a baller scholar baller started a couple of decades ago. So how do you intentionally challenge those individuals? Well, now we're in an era where you're kind of doubling down profit wise on the idea that you're a baller and you're worth millions of dollars, and you're getting that money right now without even being a professional athlete. So why is the school part even necessary? Right. AJ. Just talk a little bit about the identity development piece. It's interesting. I've never heard another person outside of AJ. Use a certain language that you're using, Shandra, in your work that AJ. Uses all the time. So, you can talk about newfound freedom as part of that. AJ.

Alonzo Jones [00:19:55]:

Yeah. So basically, when you're working with the age set, 18 years old, just to use a starting point of traditional college age, all you can do is preview what they're about to enter into and then repeatedly revisit it. Right. Because they're walking into something. We all, at a youthful age, have a sense of fearlessness and a sense of owning the moment and the now. And so, for someone to talk about preparing for when you're 45 years old, there's a little bit of cognitive dissonance. So, we just constantly reference a duality sort of owning the moment while simultaneously preparing for a future. One of the things we deal with in orientation is newfound freedoms. Under this reality, they would have woke up in their parents’ house, in their familiarity of their home, and then they will go to college and there will be a moment where they will say goodbye to their parents and they'll close their door. And that audio, the click of the door, will be also an announcement of newfound independence. Right? And so, they went from high familiarity, like I always like to jokingly say, they walk up to the refrigerator and they say, what can I take out? Right? Because it's been provided for them. But in the moment of moving on to their own, they then have to psychologically shift from what's in it to what do I need to put in it? Right? It's a date of independence. So, the day they leave their parents’ house, it is a literal date of independence, and they're excited to be there. In the case of a student athlete, they have a certain level of fame, localized fame, and they're doing this literally with thousands of other 18-year olds who are just that far away from having left their mama and daddy's house. And we then talk about the environment, right? Newfound freedom. You're excited to be there. Your age set, it has certain physicality to it, right? Certain things on its mind, and you're no longer under the observant watchful eye of parents. And in the environment, as is consistent with any collegiate environment, is all the range of alcohol, narcotics, substances, whatever the case may be. Sex is in the environment. We got to make decisions at midnight. And so, we just candidly talk about the space, who they are in it, and how to manage it. And this is what we basically say. If you replicate habits and patterns that got you here, bring that with you, decide what it is you don't want to bring from high school, discard that and decide what you want to then add. Right. Replicate patterns and behaviors that got you here, discard something that has no longer value to you and what do you want to add? And then also simultaneously acknowledge the fact that you're coming from a high-profile life. And now you're amongst a peer group who are anywhere from two to four years older than you, and you're going to go through an initial transition to where you were big time only a month ago, but now you're at the beginning of this thing. Some of them will come in and compete right away, but all we do is just foreshadow what they're going to experience and revisit and then constantly echo the fact that you're going to be older than you are right now. Which part of you is the guardian or the preparer for the 45-year-old? You? And we acknowledge all the identities, giving them proper legitimacy in place, but we ask them to lead in a college environment which is intellectual to lead with their student self.

Shandra McDonald [00:23:17]:

Yes. That's so good.

Alonzo Jones [00:23:19]:

Would you add anything, Jean?

Jean Boyd [00:23:20]:

No, but that's kind of getting into the matrix. If you were to do a 1-minute plug or not a plug, but just overview of how you help. And Shandra, this is really important because what we know about human growth development and human development and even mind development, right. Brain development, frontal lobe is not fully developed here about 25 years old. So, the decision-making component of who you are isn't even fully ready to make good decisions at 1817 or whatever the case is. So, there's impulse reaction to things, there's a sense of wanting to belong and be validated right, which can often lead to poor decision making. Alonzo tries to frame a matrix of decision-making based off of those realities that has been valuable.

Alonzo Jones [00:24:13]:

Yeah, it's just a focus in on what I call the warrior class, which is the age of 15 to 26, immediately starting after puberty where you shift from adolescent mindset into a physically centered mindset. Meaning your peer group is perhaps your greatest reference point. It's no longer parents, your reputation is hyper important to you, you're standing among groups. Your capacity to want to prove yourself is urgent in this aid set, sex, physical acknowledgment is heavily on your mind reputation and violence is in your toolkit. Right. That's immediately from 15 to 26 followed by emotionalism, intellectualism and then the last phase of human or psychological development, spirituality, because you realize you're going to transition. So, the first thing we talk about is that physically, literally you're in your physical stage but you're in an intellectual environment.

Jean Boyd [00:25:07]:


Alonzo Jones [00:25:08]:

So, we talk about the incongruency there and we talk about how to manage this. So, then we break down identities and the identities are based upon your house party self, which is lit, your spot self, which is chill, your student self, your classroom, which is student, your field pool, sport, whatever, which is athlete and then job, which is employee. And we acknowledge that these are just five different identities. All have legitimacy based upon where you're at or who you are around. And then we walk it down state of mind, formal, informal. What's your intent? The ideal is to put up many different identities and to say all of this can exist in harmony and you can have balance but which one ought to be sort of the overarching dominant leader. And we encourage them to let that person be student because student will have given balance or legitimacy to all the other identities versus what inherently happens, not because of deviance or problem thinking. It's consistent with the aid set is the aid set wants to maximize social opportunities, wants to maximize fun, wants to take risks, right? Wants to sort of be in the now kind of, which is perfectly fine, yet they're in an intellectual environment that's preparing for a future yet to come. So, we then take some time to dissect or to discuss the internal civil war that goes on in the age set between their social self and their student self. And so, a lot of it is just naming it, right. And then asking if all these identities have legitimacy. Does student have legitimacy? Right. It's just asking that profound question and then you can walk that down in so many different ways. There's ways to talk about behavior that's represented by litmus. We also talk about behavior that's sort of consistent with student. We acknowledge some of the hyper respect, particularly in Black male circles that we put tied to that warrior class. So, it's a bouncing off tool to have more narrowed conversations across a number of subject matters, but it's just acknowledging they're complex, they're beautiful, but they have to accelerate their maturity in the environment because there's so many eyes on them and so much at stake. And so, it's a way of having a now and future conversation simultaneously.

Shandra McDonald [00:27:32]:

That's so good. That's so good because if you are not mindful of the specific situation that you're in, then the wrong self can show up. And like you mentioned about warrior fighting being in that tool bag, you can be in a situation where, okay, you're at school. Maybe it's a party at school, and there's a possible confrontation at school. And it's like, okay, well, now I'm all three because this party is at school and this conflict is approaching me in that school. But the one thing that definitely holds true is the physical location, right? Your physical location is school. So that student still needs to make the decision because that student shouldn't be reaching in and necessarily pulling out. It's time to fight, that has consequences and so forth. Yeah, that is so good. What I like about it is that if they really grasp the fact that there's this situational identity, if they really grasp that that is a framework that can take them really the rest of their life, how they show up in different spaces. I was listening to your Ted Talk, and right now I'm a daughter, I'm an employee, I am a cousin, I have a lot of different roles, but my mother now lives with me because she's older and so I'm caretaker. And then for me, it's trying to balance the fact that I'm the caretaker, but to her, I'm still daughter. Right?

Alonzo Jones [00:29:31]:


Shandra McDonald [00:29:33]:

There's that type of balancing that needs to happen. So that framework is not just something that is critical for them to understand. It's a framework that they can literally take with them throughout their life and try to figure out, okay, who's in the driver's seat, who's driving right now?

Alonzo Jones [00:29:53]:


Shandra McDonald [00:29:57]:

Can we talk a little bit about the name, identity and likeness and perhaps how are you balancing that as overseers of these precious lives that could sometimes be larger than life potentially, and you're still trying to run a program? Can you talk a little bit about the impact that is having on the student's ability to be successful?

Jean Boyd [00:30:28]:

I'll start with this when you attach dollar figures to something, it increases in value, especially at the tender age that we're talking about, right? Eighteen years old, this tangible monetary so one of the things that has happened is the expectation that college athletes at this level are walking into is that they're going to make money off their name, image and likeness regardless if they do anything or not. You know what I'm saying? It's not like, hey, I'm going to take advantage of this new opportunity to promote my artwork in a way that is attached to my name. I'm going to set up a little 501(C)(3) or LLC or whatever the case is. They're just going like, “Where the money at?” They want it to be handed. And if someone's very elite in the space that is happening, like there's bidding happening for individuals based off of schools. We came across a website last week, and this is illegal per the NCAA rules, but the website exists and people are participating that as a fan of a school, let's just say you're a USC fan. You can go in and see a guy, a young man or a woman, for that sake, who is being recruited by that school, and you can put money into a pot that if they choose to go to that school, they get the money. Simply offer the choice of where they're going, right? So, it pushes the recruiting agenda because if you get enough fans aware of the site, they start pouring in. And now instead of USC, they want to go to Tennessee because there's $100,000 more dollars on the line, It’s like a signing bonus., Right. Essentially. And decisions, there's all kind of variations of this which are impacting decision making. So, you even have young people who name, image, and likeness is affecting. They're making decisions on going places that are not places that are a good fit for who they are based off of the support that's provided and even the environment, you know what I mean? You got people stepping into spaces where there aren't people that look like them and they know that they are not going to do well in that environment, but the money is enticing them. So that's the unfortunate part of this name image and like this carousel is that the overemphasis on quick cash, quick money, versus really investing in yourself in an experience that's going to build you up to be able to fish versus being able to have the fish given to you. That's one of the drawbacks and negatives of it. On the flip side, there are components of this and student athlete, amateurism and all, there are cases that are moving through the courts right now. NIL was brought on by a case. There was a case where a student was saying, hey, you guys give me awards for my athletic pursuit, but not for my academic pursuit if I do well. So, it's called Austin case that the plaintiff won. A couple of years ago. And so now student athletes can be incentivized to attend the programs that AJ and his colleagues put on for a certain amount of money. Literally. That is a good enticement. So, he's seen his attendance at his events go up 3- or 400% over the course of a year. So that's a positive piece. That's not NIL, but it's part of the new era of college athletics, something that came online more recently. So, these things are in some cases beneficial if it's done the right way, but also can be detrimental in a lot of ways.

Shandra McDonald [00:34:28]:

Yeah. You have that website that you're referring to. You literally are going to have students making decisions absent AJ's framework. Right. They don't necessarily even have the tool yet. They're just thinking about in some cases they're sitting in poverty. Right. Making a decision, which in that situation sounds like the better situation. It sounds like the better choice to be able to immediately alleviate some degree of pain. Sounds like a good choice, but in the long run, not necessarily the best choice for you. That's really good. Now you were saying something about incentivizing them to attend these types of programs. Is this program only available to ASU students or can athletes at other institutions? Is there a way for them to at least, I don't know, speak to it? Is it offered outside of ASU?

Alonzo Jones [00:35:33]:

Yeah, I'll address that. So, it's completely voluntary by the host institution. There's only limits on what it can fund and the amount. And so, it becomes a recruitment dynamic. Right. So, if ASU is not offering it and another institution is, we know we're vulnerable to the families making the decision. To your point a little bit earlier. And so, it's optional to buy in. It's largely tied to does the institution have the budget or the capacity to fund it? Right. And then you have discretion on whether or not you just exclusively award it for academic performance or do you have some combination of cocurricular experiences coupled with academic performances. And then you can develop your own policy internally about how do you distribute it, transfer students, those kinds of things. So, no, not every institution is doing it. A good percentage are. It's relatively new and recent, and some folks are just giving it away without any kind of criteria tied to it. Other institutions, such as ours, we're trying to tie it into high academic performance and cocurricular engagement.

Shandra McDonald [00:36:42]:

That's good. So, what you've seen over the years, what would you say is like, the top three things that students struggle with? I shouldn't say students, but the student-athlete. What are the top three struggles coming in?

Alonzo Jones [00:36:57]:

I'll say one, and then Jean can jump in. I think it has something to do with what Jean alluded to earlier about at this level, you psychologically and you're not delusioned. You're thinking about the pros. And so, in many instances, certainly not all, there's an incongruency. There's an incongruency that this is the pathway to the potential pro space, yet my interest is in the pro opportunity. No problem there. But yet I have this academic reality that I must contend with. And as I always like to say, it's not that the student doesn't have the capacity to intellectually own the material. There's just an incongruency with what their immediate priority is. And so, in some instances, there has to be some due diligence, some extended continuous conversation about just owning the academic experience as a way of continuing the journey. Sometimes you're just managing that versus sort of leaning into the academic experience, gaining what you need to gain from that, while simultaneously pursuing your professional aspirations. So sometimes there's just a little bit of incongruency in the student athlete moniker.

Jean Boyd [00:38:15]:

Yeah, Shandra, like a lot of young people who are transitioning from teen and adolescents into young adulthood and in adulthood, the mental health piece right now, student-athlete, non-student of the age group is just real. It's front and center. It's something that we're much more aware of as a society. Right? Is it a chicken and egg? Is it because of how we've evolved with technology and the isolationism created by technology and the social media platforms and all? Then you go into COVID, which doubles down on all of that, right? And coming out of that, or are we talking about it so much now that everybody expects to be anxious and depressed? It's all working together to create that. The CDC had a report that they did some research in 21. So, it was certainly in the COVID time period, about isolation, anxiety, depression, staggering numbers. Females 57% during the research, during the study said that they are significantly depressed and or anxious. Thirty percent contemplated or attempted suicide. This is teenage girls. The male numbers were not as high, but certainly way up on a trend line. And that has carried over into our space. So, the number one subject matter that our student athletes talk about is mental health and how can we support them better in that regard? The days of hard coaching have had to be modified. I mean, if you're someone who just says, do it because I said, and I don't care how you feel or anything, you're not going to last as a coach anymore in this, seriously. And we've seen people washing out and stepping out because they don't know how to bridge the gap. There is definitely a gap generationally right now, and resiliency and some other things doesn't mean anybody's better than another. It just means that we've got to figure out how to work together to support ourselves collectively as humanity and through the collegiate space in particular, which is supposed to be training us to be leaders. Right. We have to figure out how to bridge that gap. And it's not younger people's responsibility or college students’ responsibility versus the faculty or the staff. It's all of our responsibility. But that mental health component is front and center. And then the third one, I would say, which is an age-old challenge, is just balancing all the things on the plate, maybe in even the undertone of this anxiety and so forth, like balancing time, balancing your attention. You got a girlfriend or a boyfriend, you thought he or she was the one and they were not the one at all. And everybody else could see it, but you couldn't. But now you're heartbroken, right? You got to balance your emotions and still stay all those kinds of things.

Shandra McDonald [00:41:33]:

Let me tell you, heartbreak in college is not easy trying to study with all that emotion. So, I read an article not long ago, and it was a mental health article regarding college students. And one of the takeaways I got from that article was just the breakdown of the amount of time that is happening between high school and college. And so, the statement that I took away from that article is the difference between a high school senior and a college freshman is 3 months. That's it. Three months. And yet we want to treat them as though they're adults and they've got it all together and we're now expecting you to make quality life decisions. And just 3 months prior, you were in high school and nobody was expecting that of you.

Jean Boyd [00:42:35]:

I would add a complexity to that both in college life but also in the student athlete experience. A lot more individuals are graduating early and going to college early. That's certainly happening in the college student athlete experience. So now you’ve got to actually subtract months, right? You're supposed to be in your senior high school year working towards graduation and the prom and all that. Now you started college. That's happening at a much higher level now. And then you also have individuals who are going into summer bridge programs or bridge programs or things like that. But that time in between has dissipated for someone else. So, it's even more amplified for someone like you're walking out of the door of a high school class right. Into a college classroom dormitory environment, right?

Alonzo Jones [00:43:27]:

Yeah. It's intensified by the independence factor. It's one thing to gain new experiences, but almost everything becomes rearranged. Right. They literally are physically in a new place, both literally but also psychologically from the absence of the parent. And they're also then contending with 18 being a so-called age of constitutional independence. Right. And then, depending on their financial resources, they're beginning to feel the pressure of economics. So, all of this is just collapsed right. Within literally, say, 3 months later, right?

Shandra McDonald [00:44:02]:


Alonzo Jones [00:44:04]:

But it's the phenomena of the freshman year. And an institution that can name these things, wrap around them, touch them, often has greater success of that freshman or first-year student being successful. That's the uniqueness of collegiate athletics. The level of touch we have versus a traditional non-student-athlete, especially at larger institutions, you have to be highly intentional about supporting them in the transition.

Shandra McDonald [00:44:29]:

All right, well, this has been such a good conversation. I'm so glad you joined me today. I am going to get ready to close us out, but I want to ask you, both of you, a final question, and that is, what gives you hope today in this space, in the student athlete space, and in the athletic programs that you're in? What gives you hope?

Jean Boyd [00:44:57]:

I was hoping that was coming because we're talking about a lot of the challenges, right? Yeah. The human species is dynamic. It's ever evolving, constantly growing. One thing we didn't talk about that's scary to a lot of people, but will be helpful for a lot of others is like the artificial intelligence that's evolving under our feet. I think that the more that we can challenge ourselves to look at what's possible, to look at all the resources, like, we've got unlimited resources right now, unlike any time on this planet in history. If you take an optimistic viewpoint and think about all the things that we can do, what can we do together, what can we do even individually, if we have a positive mindset and embrace the moment that we're in versus be worried about all the things that is going on around us right now? How do you get people to do that is a different question. But I'm very hopeful that we have things at our disposal that we've never had in the history of man or womankind on this planet that with some instruction, which is key, with some guidance, with some framing, can continue. To create unprecedented perceived realities for us in terms of what we can do together as a society in this country and in this world. And that's the other piece. We have access to people in other countries and what their educational realities are and so forth. And so, we compare and partner with people as the adults or as the leaders in these spaces to create new opportunities for the young people that we aim to serve. That gives me a lot of hope.

Shandra McDonald [00:47:05]:

That's great.

Alonzo Jones [00:47:06]:

Yeah. I mean, Jean and I both would share an optimism. Very well said. I would say I'm hopeful because we are a current measurement of generational work that preceded us, and so we are further ahead as an athlete communities, cultural communities on many different variables than the ones our parents had to deal with. So, I like to acknowledge the ancestors and the elders for a current time that we live in. I'm also hopeful, kind of going forward, the level of student-athlete activism who are rejecting historical norms of just dribble and play. Right. They're leveraging their popularity, their sense of quasi fame, and they're speaking to certain kind of commitments and ideals, and they're being a bit more emboldened. Right. Historically, that had been narrowed to a few who are taking high risk. Now you have more with low risk, lower risk, and who are leveraging their athlete status in different kind of ways. And then I'm very hopeful is that you have athletes who are playing at a professional level who comparatively are in an economic reality that their predecessors were not in, and they're evolving their philanthropy beyond just foundations, and they're beginning to fund some things that might have some structural change. As I say, this completely not relevant to the show. Maybe a professional athlete is listening in. I'm hopeful that they will give their money to something that no one knows about so that they can fund ideals absent external critique. To me, I'm hopeful that the student-athlete, like Dick Gregory says, a community of people cannot be saved by entertainment and educate entertainers and athletes. I'm like, I understand that coming from Dick Gregory's world, but if you take a person who feels a sense of connection to community and different kind of moves, and they have resources that are potentially generational in their wealth, acumen. And they have a kind of fortitude to fund think tanks and certain ideals without having to suffer public scrutiny and cancellation. I'm hopeful, baby. I'm hopeful.

Shandra McDonald [00:49:28]:

I love it. One of my colleague of mine, at one point, we're like, we should start a think tank. So, I love it. I love it.

Alonzo Jones [00:49:41]:

But it's interesting there that has been, historically, how things move, right? You hear this announcement or this new legislation, but it's been thought about and strategized for a long period of time. And whatever your core issue is, it typically is preceded by thinking, right? But then also by financing. Historically, we've not been able to finance ideals. We can think about them and talk about them, but we've not been able to move in a certain kind of quietness that's necessary for projected success. We've always had to do it in public spaces. And as soon as you make something public in an announcement, it's as good as dead in the water.

Shandra McDonald [00:50:19]:

Yeah. All right, well, that concludes our episode of Academic Survival. Thank you so much to AJ and JB for joining me, and hopefully I'll.

Shandra McDonald [00:50:35]:

Be able to talk to you again.

Alonzo Jones [00:50:36]:

Shandra, thank you so much.  We truly appreciate it.

Jean Boyd [00:50:38]:

And thank you. Thank you for what you're doing. The subject matter in and of itself, the title, and already seeing some of the different iterations of humanity that you have. You're talking to students, too, and they're talking firsthand of what they're dealing with, experts, et cetera. So thanks for having the courage and the wherewithal to make this available.

Shandra McDonald [00:51:01]:

All right.

Alonzo Jones [00:51:03]:

Thank you, Duck. Appreciate you.

Shandra McDonald [00:51:05]:

Thank you.

Shandra McDonald [00:51:12]:

That's it for today on Academic Survival. If you want to share your story.

Shandra McDonald [00:51:16]:

On how you survived your freshman year.

Shandra McDonald [00:51:18]:

Of college, you can reach me at info at

Shandra McDonald [00:51:23]:

We'll be back next week with more.

Shandra McDonald [00:51:25]:

Ways to survive your academic journey. Until then, happy studying.

Alonzo AJ JonesProfile Photo

Alonzo AJ Jones

Associate Athletic Director

Coordinates life skills for ASU Student-Athletes

Jean BoydProfile Photo

Jean Boyd

Deputy Athletic Director - Arizona State University; Co-Founder - Scholar Baller Non-Profit Organization

Jean Boyd has served as the Deputy Athletics Director since October 2017. In this role, he manages the overall implementation of the Sun Devil Athletics strategic plan and serves as the department’s Chief Operating Officer (COO). Additionally, Boyd serves as the primary sport administrator and General Manager (GM) for football, and is a member of the Pac-12 Football Working Group.

Previous to this role, Boyd served on the senior leadership team as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Performance (2014 – 2017) where he oversaw the collaborative efforts for all maximizing components for student-athlete performance, well-being, and development. Prior still, he served as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development (2011 – 2014) and led the commitment to graduating and preparing student-athletes to become high achievers in life. During this time period he also coordinated the department's diversity and inclusion efforts.

Boyd has been regarded nationally as a leader in the field of comprehensive student-athlete development. In June of 2021, he was recognized with the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professional’s (N4A) Distinguished Service Award. From 2014 to 2016 he served on the N4A executive committee and was voted the organization’s president in 2016 where he led a restructure and organizational name change. In 2012 he was named the National Associate of Academic Advisors for Athletes' Lan Hewelett Award winner, an honor given to the top academic professional as voted on by his/her peers.