Student Athlete Services’ Sandra Shirley SelectedPublished: March 16, 2009
CSULB’s Sandra Shirley, associate director of Student Athlete Services, was named recently by her coworkers as Employee of the Month.
“It’s very touching to know my coworkers voted for me and thought I deserved this honor,” said Shirley, who joined the university in 1989 on her way to a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in 1994. “I try to show my hard work and dedication in the graduation of our student athletes.”
CSULB President Dr. F. King Alexander praised Shirley for rising through the ranks from a student assistant to become the associate director of Student Athlete Services. “Sandra is noted for being instrumental in increasing student-athlete graduation rates. Her collaboration with the Division of Academic Affairs and the Athletic Department has led to many new academic support programs for CSULB’s student athletes,” he said. “Because of her exceptional skills as a counselor and as an administrator, plus her absolute willingness to go the extra mile for CSULB, no one is more deserving of this honor.”
Shirley began her career at CSULB in 1994 as a part-time student assistant in Student Athlete Services, advising student athletes on NCAA eligibility and CSULB requirements. In 1997, she accepted a full-time position as student services professional.
“It’s my responsibility to make sure Student-Athlete Services runs efficiently,” she said. “Most of that responsibility is centered on face-to-face guidance to my staff and academic counseling of student-athletes on a regular basis. I understand student’s needs; mentoring and tutoring. Mostly, they need the opportunity to talk to somebody.”
One key to her empathy with student-athletes is that Shirley was one herself. She was first recruited as a walk-on to CSULB’s women’s softball program when she arrived on campus in 1989.
“I played for Pete Manarino and participated in four College World Series 1990 to 1993,” she recalled. “I remember feeling lost and alone when I was a freshman. Thankfully, I had guidance from my sister, Susan, who is another CSULB graduate. I found myself ‘self-advising’ and one of my goals today is to show student-athletes that there are knowledgeable people around campus who can assist them through their college years. I want the student athletes to be aware of all the campus resources and open their eyes to more than the classroom and sports.” Because of her outstanding athletic abilities, Sandra has been inducted into the CSULB Athletic Hall of Fame (2004) as well as the City of Long Beach Baseball/Softball Hall of Fame (2007).
Shirley needs a varied skill set to do her job. “I need interpersonal skills and the ability to manage my time,” she said. “It is important to listen and to know what to listen for. I try to use a holistic approach with student athletes. I need people skills and I need administrative skills. Balancing the difference can be interesting. Part of the job’s appeal is that I never know what will come my way from day to day. Whenever my door opens, there is someone there with an interesting question for me.”
Today’s student-athlete faces more challenges than ever. “It’s a lot different from when I was a student athlete,” she explains. “NCAA rules have tightened up for student-athletes and it is up to Student-Athlete Services to show our students how they can get through these rules. This can be difficult at times. Today’s student-athletes have so many rules and demands placed on them. Sometimes I wonder if I would have stuck with it.”
One of her career highlights is her commitment to raising student-athlete graduation rates. “We have five counselors working with 350 student athletes,” she said. “There is mandatory advising every semester and each student is carefully tracked. I think this is a real tribute to the effort we make toward student-athlete graduation success. Their graduation is our number one priority.”
When she isn’t working to make CSULB a better place, Shirley enjoys spending time with her husband, John, another CSULB graduate, and their 4-year-old son, Trevor. “We take good advantage of our vacations and go boating every weekend we get a chance, relax at our Hawaiian timeshare and visit out of state sisters once a year,” she said.
Shirley is glad she made the choice to join CSULB. “I feel proud and fortunate I’ve been given the opportunity to work with our student athletes,” she said. “I’m glad I chose CSULB for my career. It has been an enjoyable experience and I advise others to think about a university career.”
Shirley received several gifts in addition to seeing Friendship Walk renamed Sandra Shirley Lane, including a CSULB sweatshirt, a $25 gift certificate for Bella Terra, a gift certificate for four tickets to a 2009 CSULB home game, a $10 gift certificate for Finbar’s Italian Kitchen and a coupon for one free Whopper from Burger King.