Tucked away in Noteboom Hall, room 317, Jessica Messersmith — the newly appointed Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) — is deciding what the best course of action is to help all student-athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a normal year, Messersmith’s job would include keeping student-athletes on track while they balance their academics and athletics. She would also coordinate with professors when a student-athlete needed to be gone for a sporting event.
This year, however, Messersmith said her job is focused around all things COVID-19 related.
“We’re having lots of discussions within USD athletics about how to run athletics during the current pandemic, as well as how to support our student-athletes in their ability to succeed on the court and play,” Messersmith said, “while also not putting them at any unnecessary risk.”
Along with all the changes COVID-19 has inflicted on her job as FAR, Messersmith was also presented with the chance to be on the Summit League Task Force on Diversity.
“It is a really concerted effort within the Summit League to ensure that the voices that we need to be listening to right now, are being heard and listened to,” Messersmith said. “I was really humbled and honored to be asked to join, and I think that I can do a good job of supporting those voices so that those persons can be heard right now.”
As FAR, Messersmith said she has a lot of goals she wants to reach to best serve the student-athletes. She said she wants to make sure they can succeed, especially during the confusion COVID-19 has presented.
“I want to make sure we are recognizing that our student-athletes have had to face a lot of unexpected changes,” Messersmith said. “When you have these really great unexpected changes they can be jarring and oftentimes particularly when you are a young adult.”
Messersmith is not only the FAR, but she also serves as the Department Chair for Communication Sciences and Disorders.
Messersmith’s colleague, Deputy Athletic Director, Mike West said her experience as a Department Chair and history playing athletics in high school helps her to successfully do her job.
“I think it’s good to have (both the administrative and sports backgrounds) when you have someone working as a bridge between academics and athletics,” West said. “It’s good to have someone that has a good balance and knowledge base of both areas.”
Messersmith is having to adapt to this new position in not the most ideal of times, but she said she’s still ready to do all she can in order to help the student-athletes succeed and thrive, both in athletics and their academics.