Aggie student-athletes made an impressive showing in NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships in 2015-16, winning three of the prestigious awards that honor academic achievement, athletic accomplishment, community service and leadership.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association presents up to 174 of the scholarships annually, 58 per sports season, divided evenly between men and women, and balanced across Division I, II and III schools. Division I UC Davis had a winner in each season last year: Ana Marija Sola, fall; Neal Monson, winter; and Trevor Halsted, spring.
“This is further testament to the academic strength and the outstanding character of our student-athletes,” said Kevin Blue, Aggie athletics director. “We’re proud of Ana Marija, Neal and Trevor and all our student-athletes who excel on the field and in the classroom and community.”
With NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships for Sola, Monson and Halsted in 2015-16, Aggies have now won seven of these awards since entering Division I in 2007 (see box). Before that, as a member of Division II, UC Davis ranked first in the country in the number of NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners and 12th overall in Divisions I, II and III combined, according to Michelle Roppeau, director of academic advising in Intercollegiate Athletics.
The NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship program is open to all the seniors among the 460,000 student-athletes at 1,121 NCAA institutions in all divisions. Nomination packets go through regional selection committees and from there to a national committee.
Established in 1964, NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships promote and encourage postgraduate education; accordingly, each recipient must use his or her one-time, nonrenewable award of $7,500 for graduate education.
Here’s a summary of the academic and athletic accomplishments of each of last year’s Aggie winners, and their postgraduate plans:
• Ana Marija Sola, soccer —She graduated in the spring with two degrees: Bachelor of Science in neurobiology, physiology and behavior, and Bachelor of Arts in English. With a cumulative grade-point average of 3.986, she ranked in the top 1 percent of her class in both the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Letters and Science. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, was a Fulbright Scholar semifinalist and earned recognition as a Big West Conference Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year (2015).
She was voted her team’s Newcomer of the Year as a freshman, and would go on to serve as co-captain for two years. She started every match as a senior and won her team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player Award twice.
She plans to enter medical school in fall 2017 and is considering a possible specialization in neonatology. She was an undergraduate researcher at the Center for Neuroscience, and she volunteered at the student-run Willow Clinic for homeless people in Sacramento.
• Neal Monson, basketball — A philosophy major and Spanish minor who graduated in June (cumulative GPA of 3.906), Monson accepted a full scholarship to Brigham Young University Law School and hopes to pursue a career in international immigration law.
Monson, a co-captain of the basketball team, led the Big West last season in overall rebound average and is ranked second all-time in school history in that category. He earned Big West Conference All-Academic honors and made the Big West Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll (with highest honors). He earned recognition as a Big West Conference Male Scholar Athlete of the Year (2015), becoming the first basketball player in school history to win that honor.
He was a basketball clinic volunteer, participated in the basketball team’s elementary school reading program and served as a youth counselor.
• Trevor Halsted, track and cross country — He received the M.S. Ghausi Medal last spring as the top graduating senior in the College of Engineering (mechanical engineering major and mathematics minor, with a cumulative GPA of 3.967). He also won the 2016 W.P. Lindley Award as UC Davis’ top scholar-athlete. He is headed to Stanford in the fall on a full fellowship to study for a Ph.D., aiming for a career in robotics and control systems research.
A cross country captain, he was twice voted his team’s most valuable player and received All-West Region and All-Big West Conference honors. He holds the second-best marks in school history in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
He earned Big West Conference All-Academic honors and made the Big West Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll (with highest honors). And he was a Big West Conference Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year (2012).
More Aggie academic data
The NCAA tracks all student-athletes on athletic scholarship to compile an Academic Progress Rate and Graduation Success Rate for each Division I school, annually:
- Academic Progress Rate — Based on whether the athletes retained their eligibility to compete and returned to school each academic term. In the most recent four-year reporting period, 2011-12 through 2014-15, UC Davis’ 23 teams posted an average APR of 988 out of 1,000, topping the national average of 979. Four teams had perfect scores: golf, tennis and water polo on the women’s side, and cross country on the men’s side. Seventeen teams ranked in the top three in their conferences. The Aggie football program earned the highest APR in the Big Sky Conference for the fourth year in a row — every year UC Davis has been in the league.
- Graduation Success Rate — The percentage of students who graduated within six years of entering school. The most recent data, for the 2008-14 cohort, gave UC Davis an overall GSR of 88 percent, best in the Big West Conference for the fourth consecutive year. Seven Aggie teams posted perfect GSRs: field hockey, golf, gymnastics, tennis, volleyball and water polo on the women’s side, and water polo on the men’s side. Football (83 percent) and women’s basketball (93 percent) also led their conferences. Fifteen UC Davis programs ranked first or second in their conferences, and 18 posted GSRs of 80 percent or better.
Other data illustrate the depth and breadth of the academic performance of all of student-athletes (not just those on athletic scholarship):
- Grade-point averages — Together, UC Davis’ 23 intercollegiate teams achieved an average GPA of 3.00 in winter 2016 (the last quarter for which data are available) and 3.01 across the last three quarters (spring 2015, fall 2015 and winter 2016).
- Average GPA 3.00 or higher, winter 2016 — 11 women’s teams (basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, volleyball, and water polo) and one men’s team (tennis).
- Student-athletes with 3.00 or better GPA, winter 2016 — 53 percent (61 percent female, 44 percent male). Student-athletes with 3.00 or better GPA over the last three quarters, 52 percent.
- Conference academic honors — 89 Aggies earned Big West Academic All-Conference honors in 2015-16, and four football players made the Big Sky All-Academic Team last year.