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Grad School & Sports: Meet the Student-Athletes of Wake Forest SPS


Student-athletes are as diverse as the sports they play. 

They come from all walks of life and are on a variety of different paths. For some, that path leads them to furthering their education and career in graduate school while still maintaining a passion for the sport they love. This is why the Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies (SPS) and Wake Forest University Athletics have partnered together to offer student-athletes an opportunity to excel both on the field and in their academic pursuits. 

“Student-athletes are choosing Wake Forest because of these exceptional academic opportunities and the School of Professional Studies is helping to prepare them for the next chapter in their professional lives,” said Jane Caldwell, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services.

Balancing graduate school with collegiate sports requires dedication and passion. Here are some of the Wake Forest SPS students who tackle the challenge on a daily basis:

Ava TorrenceAva Torrence

Program: Master of Project Management

Sport: Volleyball 

What’s a typical day look like for you?

When I was in season, my typical day consisted of waking up and watching lectures, as well as getting some schoolwork done. Then I would head to my 1:30 pm film session, 2:30 pm lift, and then practice until around 6:30 most nights. Since I usually had my mornings free, I would get all my schoolwork done then so I could have evenings to decompress.

What made you decide to pursue a graduate degree at Wake Forest SPS?

I loved the energy of Wake Forest and I got along well with the coaches here. Our academic advisor, Christia, helped me narrow down my grad school options.We found that SPS aligned with my goals in life and the schedule I would [have] while being an athlete.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering participating in athletics while in graduate school?

Make the decision that is best for you and what works best for your schedule and your mental health. It is not easy to be enrolled in grad school while participating in sports, so research, plan, and narrow down options for yourself. I loved SPS because it was virtual which allowed me to have a lot of open time to get my work done while also being an athlete.


Wake Forest linebacker Chase Jones talks to the media at the 2023 ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 27, 2023. (Photo by Nell Redmond/ACC)Chase Jones

Program: Master of Financial Technology & Analytics 

Sport: Football (former player for Wake Forest and now a student-coach) 

What’s a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me now is much different than when I was a player. Now, my days are filled with watching and breaking down the game and practice film with coaches, performing analytics on football data, and other tasks the coaches need me to do to help the team get better.

How did you get into football?

I first started playing football when I was in 3rd grade and fell in love with it immediately. My favorite team growing up was the Philadelphia Eagles, and I can still remember sitting on the couch watching Donovan McNabb as quarterback. He, and the rest of the Eagles team, were big reasons I wanted to play football.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering participating in athletics while in graduate school?

The biggest piece of advice  I would give to someone  looking to participate in athletics while in graduate school is to make sure they have a plan and to hold themselves accountable to this plan. Whatever days/hours they decide will be dedicated to schoolwork, do everything possible to stick to them.


Devonte GordonDeVonte Gordon

Program: Master in Digital Marketing 

Sport: Football

How did you get into football?

I was recruited in high school to play basketball. At that school, it was a requirement that for your physical education credit you either had to play at least two sports or take a PE class. So I started playing football as well. At first, I didn’t really have a true love for the sport, but as I continued to play, I fell more and more in love with it. I kept working to become a better player and it worked out for me.

What’s been key to successfully managing your time as a student athlete?

The main thing that has been key to managing my time as a student-athlete in this program is being aware of everything that I have to do. At the beginning of the week, I look at all of the assignments that I have to do for the week and make a plan of how I will fit it all into my schedule. It’s very easy to get off track or behind when you don’t plan in advance, or are just unaware of how much you have to do. Planning at the beginning of each week has helped me tremendously.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering participating in athletics while in graduate school? 

To someone considering participating in athletics while in graduate school, I would say that you have to be ready for a much different experience than undergrad. There is a lot more freedom given to you. In undergrad, you are constantly reminded of deadlines, but in grad school, you have to be ready to take accountability for everything that you have going on because no one is going to hold your hand through it. With that being said, I think it is a very rewarding opportunity and experience if done the right way.


Megan CookMegan Cook

Program: Master of Project Management 

Sport: Track & Field 

What’s a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me involves listening to the Huberman Lab podcast as I get ready for track practice. The podcast, hosted by Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and professor of neurobiology, is great and has given me tips for better health. Each episode is extremely intriguing as he discusses interesting topics of the human brain in a way that non-medical people can understand. I spend a lot of my time training with my teammates and lift weights in the evening

What’s been key to successfully managing your time as a student athlete?

To manage my time as a student athlete, I dedicate my evenings to checking into my classes to stay on top of my schoolwork. With this program being completely online, it is important to stay engaged each day. I also make a conscious effort to network with people in the program, because it is great to connect with people who are already well into their career. What makes this program so great is the opportunity to learn from peers across different industries.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering participating in athletics while in graduate school?

I would say go for it! My advice would be to pick a program that you are passionate about because higher education is all about in-depth concepts and specific notions around a topic. If you are passionate about your sport and eager to excel in higher education, balancing the two will be achievable.


Michael Kern 

Program: Graduate Certificate in Digital Marketing and Analytics; graduated with Master in Project Management in December 2023

Sport: Football

What made you decide to pursue a degree at Wake Forest SPS?

The project management degree was enticing to me because of the role of a project manager, and because of the flexibility of the program. As a quarterback on the football team at Wake, a lot of my current responsibilities are mirrored with those of a project manager. Being able to work with a team towards a common goal with constantly changing tasks is what I love doing, and it was what this program offered. The flexibility of the program also worked so well with our strange football schedule. We go through winter workouts, spring football, summer workouts, and the fall season, and being able to do my work when I have time that works for me has been so helpful in my success in other areas of my life.

What’s a typical day look like for you?

A typical day depends on the season I’m in. Right now in spring ball, we have practice on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. I get up around 5:15 and will be at football until about 10:30. Then I eat lunch and do an hour of work before going to watch film. After that, I eat dinner, then usually have some sort of extracurricular activity. I am a leader for  the Athlete in Action group on campus, and I lead a weekly Bible study for football guys. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we lift in the morning, so I work around lunch for my classes. Then, we have three hours of meetings at night to watch the practice tape and prepare for the next day.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering participating in athletics while in graduate school?

I would encourage them to have a plan to get their work done, you don’t want to get behind. Be sure to set aside time every day to get your work done and make sure you know your due dates for assignments.


If you are a student-athlete considering graduate school, check out the Wake Forest School of Professional Studies to learn more about our flexible, online programs.  

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