Penn State Beaver student-athletes score high in the classroom

Campus athletic academic liaison helps students focus on grades
Frankie meets with a student in the library

Jake Burke, a freshman baseball player, meets with reference and instruction librarian and student athletic academic liaison Frankie Checchio.

Credit: Cathy Benscoter/Penn State Beaver

MONACA, Pa.  — Penn State Beaver student-athletes have not only had success in their respective sports but in the classroom as well, thanks in part to Frankie Checchio.
Checchio, reference and instruction librarian and student athletic academic liaison, supports student-athletes in their academic endeavors and has helped students go from being ineligible to play to making the dean’s list. 
He began the role in May 2019, and the results have shown the overall effect he's had on the athletes. 
An academics-first focus by the athletic department, with support from Checchio, means student-athletes have taken it to heart and have maintained a collective a 3.0 grade-point average across each athletic team. 
“I think it’s important for student-athletes to focus on their grades because it keeps them eligible, and I know no one wants to let their team down because of grades,” Checchio said. “I think there’s a lot of importance in playing and being out there on the field or court. You get many skills for your entire life.”
Checchio organizes study hours for student-athletes, requiring them to have a certain amount of hours spent in the library each week. He also organizes one-on-one meetings, depending on each student’s needs, and he helps students understand how athletic skills can translate into academic skills.
“My role as the athletic academic liaison has gone great. It’s gone way further than what I expected,” he said. “I think it’s really nice I’ve been able to meet student-athletes one-on-one and really get to know them, and being four years in, I've seen a whole class graduate.”
Checchio's role as the athletic academic liaison is to help first-year student-athletes and other athletes who are struggling with classes and may feel uncomfortable reaching out and utilizing their resources to help them succeed in the classroom.
Checchio was an athlete all through college and remembers it being difficult to adjust his first semester because of the different demands, like practice, games, class and maintaining a social life. 
“I was a student-athlete all through college, and I remember the first semester for me was extremely hard because I wasn’t used to it,” Checchio said. “When I first started working, I was constantly thinking of a way to help student-athletes so they won’t struggle with things I struggled with.”
At the start of his career at Penn State Beaver, he pitched an offer to give athletes a tour and overview of the library to make them feel comfortable with and aware of the resources available to them.
Andy Kirschner, director of athletics, offered Checchio a bigger role and asked if he wanted to take on the role as the athletic academic liaison because it was something they wanted to do in the past, but never had anyone willing to take the role.
“Coming to a place this size I figured I can get closer to the athletes and help them out and it was something I pitched in the interview,” Checchio said. “I thought it was going to be a much smaller degree where I just showed them the basis of a library and got them to know my face as a resource, but the athletic department was willing to take it further than that.”
Every year since 2019 there has been a continuous growth with students’ GPAs, reaching out, utilizing academic resources and continuing to do study hours when they are no longer required. 
“Whenever I hear from them, it lets me know something well is going on, and I know there’s that comfortability in reaching out whether or not it's through email or in person,” Checchio said.
“These things let me know the benefits of the role I have as the athletic academic liaison,” he said.

Checchio’s work has spread beyond the campus.
He recently had the opportunity to present at two library conferences, with one of them, the Association of College and Research Libraries, being the top conference for all librarians. The ACRL library conference is held yearly. In order to be invited to present, a librarian must send a proposal presentation, and it must be approved by the selection committee.
“It felt good to be selected because it’s a big conference and knowing someone was interested in what we are doing here made me feel proud of the work I am doing to help students excel in the classroom,” Checchio said.