BGSU Life Design program fosters partnership with BGSU Athletics to support, mentor student-athletes

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – The groundbreaking Bowling Green State University program aimed at redefining student success on a scale larger than any university in the country is expanding its reach even further through a newly formed partnership with the University’s Athletics Department.

Life Design at BGSU is being integrated into courses, workshops and mentorship of student-athletes, coaches and staff members to enhance the experiences of the University’s Division I athletes.

A key component of the partnership involved creating a new position focused on connecting the specific needs of student-athletes to the broader Life Design initiative.

Housed in athletics, the new assistant director for student-athlete development will work closely with the Life Design team to provide comprehensive support to student-athletes to bolster their success on and off the field.

“Student-athletes face challenges that differ from traditional students, and this new collaboration between Life Design and athletics strengthens our approach to ensuring student-athletes succeed in college and beyond,” said Dr. Chet Hesson, Ed.D., senior associate athletic director for student-athlete experience and deputy Title IX coordinator.

Division I athletes spend an average of 32 hours a week participating in some aspect of their sport, including travel, training, competition, practice, pre-hab and rehab, according to the most recent NCAA Student-Athlete Well-Being Study.

Former BGSU football player Ed Petras ‘65, a proponent of mentorship and improving the student-athlete experience, made a generous donation to support the development of the partnership.

“We’re incredibly grateful for Ed’s support of BGSU student-athletes and are excited to provide students with these additional resources that will undoubtedly aid in their success,” Hesson said.

Life Design at BGSU, built using the framework established by the Life Design Lab at Stanford University, leverages design thinking principles to equip students with the tools to navigate challenges and empower them to design their futures.

Since the program launched in Fall 2020, it has become a recognizable differentiator of student success at BGSU and has grown to include the Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design and the Michael and Sara Kuhlin Hub for Career Design and Connections.

Although it is one comprehensive program, Life Design includes two distinct components — college and life design, and career design and connections — that represent the evolving needs of students as they make their way through college.

As assistant director for student-athlete development, Bryan Mestre is uniquely positioned to be the liaison between athletics and Life Design.

His relationships with student-athletes and experience as a former student-athlete will be beneficial as he establishes Life Design as a core component of athletics culture.

This fall, Mestre and Life Design coach David Denison are co-facilitating BGSU 1910, a one-credit-hour seminar introducing student-athletes to design thinking skills necessary to navigate problems and discover workable solutions. Mestre also will provide one-on-one mentorship in a role similar to Life Design coaches.

The first-year Life Design seminar includes a standard curriculum, which can be adapted to more closely align with the experiences of various populations on campus.

“Our mantra is consistent curriculum, personalized pedagogy,” said Gabe Dunbar, assistant director of the Radbill Center for College and Life Design. “The content is going to look very similar across all the sections of BGSU 1910, with certain aspects tailored to specific populations whether that’s a student-athlete or a Thompson Working Families Scholar.”

In addition to student-athletes learning the foundational principles of design thinking, coaches and athletics staff members are participating in monthly Life Design workshops.

Dunbar said the monthly workshops primarily focus on the coaches and staff as individuals while helping them understand how they can apply design thinking concepts in their interactions with student-athletes.

The BGSU Athletics Department is also building a robust mentorship program called the Athletics Legacy Mentorship Program in collaboration with the Kuhlin Hub for Career Design and Connections.

The program aims to provide student-athletes with career mentorship as they prepare for their lives after college athletics.

“Our goal is to provide each of our student-athletes with a mentor who works in a field that is of interest to them or is an employer interested in working with student-athletes because they value the intangible skills a student-athlete brings to the table,” Hesson said. “We want our student-athletes to have the support mechanisms in place to be successful in college and life. Having a mentor to talk to them about the value of a BGSU degree and various career paths will be highly beneficial to their journey.”

Updated: 10/03/2023 10:07AM