The Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Academic Achievement Center began with a few kind-hearted people who saw a need for academic support for the student-athletes of Missouri State University. In the early days, the men's and women's sports advisors were in separate departments known as Athletic Academic Support, although the term department might be an overstatement.
The advisors, who were also members of the Missouri State faculty, mainly worked with the larger, more visible teams (football, basketball, etc) and served as crisis control for the smaller sports. Study hall sessions were held in various buildings on campus. The larger sports used the library while the smaller sports (at least the ones that had study hall sessions) used classrooms all over campus. Tutors were hired for these study hall sessions, with one set of tutors being used for the men's teams and another for the women's teams.
The first major growth spurt by the program came with the combination of the two Athletic Academic Support "departments" into one center, the Academic Athletic Assistance Program in 1996 under the guidance of Director Jo Belle Hopper and Assistant Director Eric Brey. The center was located in the basement of Freudenberger, one of the residence halls on campus. The study hall sessions were now centrally located. The tutors could be used more efficiently and the advisors were all working together with the Missouri State Compliance office. A small computer lab was also created for the use of the student-athletes.
While it was a nice change to have a true department focused on helping the student-athletes, there were some drawbacks to the new location. Being in the basement of a residence hall, the rooms were not quite suited for studying. During the day, the small windows did little to help the fluorescent bulbs light up the rooms. The larger teams still had their study hall sessions in the library, but now all of the smaller teams had required study sessions in one central location. The residents above the study hall had a habit of playing their music loud enough to be disturbing to those trying to study below. The water running through the exposed pipes overhead was also a distraction. In addition, the lack of restroom facilities forced everyone to cross the street to the Forsythe Athletic Building as necessary.
In 1998, the second floor of the Forsythe Athletics Center was renovated. As part of this renovation, an academic center was built thanks to a private donation earmarked specifically for academics. The Academic Athletic Assistance Program was moved across the street (and above ground) and was renamed The Achievement Center for Intercollegiate Athletics in the Fall of 1998. The new facility offers more space for study sessions, two computer labs, office space for the Director, Assistant Director, and Graduate Assistants, along with the Athletics Compliance Office, not to mention restroom facilities and lots of sunlight.
The new facility provides enough room for all teams to conduct their study hall sessions in one central location. The student-athletes use their student ID card to clock in and out of study hall using a computerized time clock. The center is open from 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. on Sundays, 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. on Friday. The student-athletes may clock in during any of these times and receive credit toward their required number of study hall hours (usually 6-8 hours per week).
Tutors are provided during the nightly study hall sessions at no cost to the student-athletes. The tutoring staff usually numbers around 10 to 12 and covers most of the general education subjects as well as some upper level courses. Tutors can also be found for specific courses as they are needed.
The Achievement Center also offers two computer labs for the use of the student-athletes. The larger lab holds 15 computers with internet access and the same software used by all the computer labs on campus. The smaller lab holds 7 computers with the same software as the other labs on campus and is mainly used for word processing. Both labs are connected to a high-speed printer.
Throughout the many changes and improvements to The Achievement Center, the main focus has stayed the same: To do what is necessary to give the student-athletes every opportunity to succeed.