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Desire to help student-athletes turns into career for alumnus

Finding career motivation comes in different places and times. Paul Downey discovered his vision during a special topics class with a focus on sport psychology.

“Upon learning about sport psychology and student-services, I knew that I wanted to work with top level student-athletes to help them achieve their goals,” said Downey

The Altoona, PA native chose West Virginia University for his doctorate degree in sport and exercise psychology.

“The WVU sport and exercise psychology graduate program provided tremendous practical experiences to work with individual student-athletes, teams and coaches. To say the program offers hands-on experiences would be an understatement,” said Downey.

While at WVU, Downey become an academic coordinator for student-athletes, coordinating communications between professors, major decision making, assignments and more. He coordinated the tutoring program, helping student-athletes achieve their goals.

Downey joined the University of Kentucky athletic department after having served as the Illinois State University associate athletic director, supervising the staff who provided services for the more than 400 student-athletes at ISU. 

“My role as Associate AD for Academics and Director of the Center for Academic and Tutoring Services at UK entails setting the tone for our staff, student-athletes and coaches as it relates to the student-athlete academic experience. We provide well over 1,000 hours of tutoring and mentoring each week for our 500 student-athletes.

“Our office serves as secondary academic advisors on campus. Academic counselors provide guidance to student-athletes about major choice, course selection, progress toward graduation and maintaining eligibility,” explained Downey.

Downey credits WVU professors who influenced him as a student.

“I received support along the way from a wide variety of faculty, like recently retired Dr. Ed Etzel and WVU Senior Associate Athletic Director Terri Howes. I wouldn’t be working in my dream job if not for the opportunities provided to me by the down to earth, genuine people of WVU,” said Downey.

Downey received his Master of Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Science at the University of Maryland. He received a B.A. in Psychology while at Clarion University.

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