At first glance it may seem unusual to see Tom Cavenagh, professor of business law and conflict resolution, wearing a North Central College baseball jersey paging through a book in his office. But after a few minutes of conversation about his role as faculty mentor for the College’s baseball team the picture becomes quite clear.
“Being a faculty mentor demonstrates the whole picture of the collegiate life of student athletes,” says Cavenagh. “It sends this wonderful message that their entire collegiate experience is connected—not compartmentalized.”
As a faculty mentor, Cavenagh dresses in full uniform at home games, takes fly balls with the team before a game, sits in the dugout and warms up the right fielder between innings. He considers himself a baseball traditionalist so he prefers to wear knickers with stirrup socks.
“It’s one of my favorite memories— the first time he showed up to the game in his red old-school striped socks, white baseball pants, red Cavenagh jersey, and old-school North Central hat,” says pitcher Chris Toy ’09.
While Cavenagh enjoys a laugh about uniform etiquette, the players know he’ll challenge them to think not just about baseball. “I want the players to know it’s fair game that if I’m in uniform warming up with them, I’m going to ask them difficult questions. I want them to see that intellectual life happens everywhere. It’s not confined to the classroom experience.”
Each of the College’s 22 athletic teams has at least one faculty mentor. The goal of the mentoring program is simple: connect student athletes with faculty away from the classroom. Four years into the program, it seems to be working.
“Faculty see the significant commitment required to be a student-athlete and students see faculty as real people,” says Cavenagh. “Students get a sense that there is honest collaboration between faculty and coaches to create a great academic, athletic and leadership experience.”
Cavenagh is also the College’s director of Leadership, Ethics and Values. He has strong opinions about how students should view leadership. “Leadership is not a distinct academic discipline. Instead, I want students to see leadership as a seasoning on all disciplines. I would much rather teach someone politics, for instance, and leaven the instruction with leadership.”
Back on the field, players respect Cavenagh and enjoy his presence in the dugout. “We call him Coach even though he is not really a coach,” says Toy. “We see him as a leader.”
North Central Annual Report 2008