Todd Stansbury’s perspective on ‘I got out’ vs. simply graduating

Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury doesn’t want school’s academic rigor to be minimized or sugarcoated.. (Rob Felt / Georgia Tech)

Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury doesn’t want school’s academic rigor to be minimized or sugarcoated.. (Rob Felt / Georgia Tech)

Sharing tales of woe about the academic experience at Georgia Tech is as much of a school tradition as the Ramblin’ Wreck and the steam whistle that blows hourly on campus. It’s why Tech alumni, rather than say they graduated, prefer to say “I got out.”

Athletic director Todd Stansbury, himself an alumnus, offered a different thought last week about the tale-telling of nightmare exams and cruel professors.

“As Georgia Tech alums, many of us, we wear like a badge of honor the ‘getting out’ mentality and all that kind of stuff,” he said at a board meeting of the Georgia Tech Athletic Association last Thursday. “But it’s actually not a great way to recruit.”

Indeed, horror stories about the challenges of trying to stay afloat academically do not seem a productive method for winning the hearts and minds of prospective Yellow Jackets. Tech football recruits, in fact, often meet the team’s academic services staff and are shown a plan for graduation. The team’s NCAA-measured Graduation Success Rate of 82 percent (the national average for FBS and FCS is 75 percent) would indicate that a diploma is well within the grasp of those who earn admission. The athletic department’s overall rate is 88 percent, its highest since the NCAA began using the measurement system in 2005.

Stansbury doesn’t want Tech’s academic rigor to be minimized or sugarcoated. What he wants is for it to be part of a bigger picture, and one viewed from perhaps a different angle. It is a difference, he said, of thriving vs. surviving.

“We have student-athletes that embrace this culture and love it and I just know, as an alum, I had a pretty good time here,” he said. “And so moving away from how hard it is to what you can actually accomplish here and, while it is rigorous, the payoff is huge.”

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He noted the 90 athletes participating in internships this summer – 34 on the football team. Other athletes have participated in cutting-edge research and become involved in leadership roles in campus organizations.

As he took note of such success stories, “I just really started to think that the traditional Georgia Tech mantra of, this ‘get out’ thing, it’s a little overplayed,” Stansbury told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I like to tell people the greatest thing about having a Georgia Tech degree is people think you’re a heck of a lot smarter than you really are. And we kind of overplay that a little bit.”

Since his arrival in November 2016, Stansbury has made the athletic department’s branding and messaging a priority. This would be another example of his desire for Tech to differentiate itself in an appealing way. He calls it a change of mindset and culture, of being, in his words “gung ho” rather than “Oh, this is so hard.”

“We can do things here other people can’t, and we might as well celebrate it,” he said.