Ex-Notre Dame star had studies down to a science

by Andy Gardiner

Jenny Streiffer Mascaro arrived at Notre Dame in the fall of 1996 as a nationally acclaimed soccer player and top student with a keen, if unfocused, interest in science. She left as both an athletic and academic All-American, prepared for careers in the two worlds she balanced through college.p. Mascaro puts a human face on the NCAA statistics that show Notre Dame is the nation’s most successful Division I-A school at graduating its scholarship athletes. In the latest ratings (for the freshman class of 1996-97), 92% of 98 Notre Dame student-athletes earned their degrees within six years.p. Mascaro is an exceptional example of the Notre Dame student-athlete. She joined Mia Hamm as the only Division I woman to score 70 goals and 70 assists in her career and played two seasons in the WUSA. She received the Kanaley Award, the school’s most prestigious senior honor for athletes, and earned NCAA and Big East Conference post-graduate scholarships.p. But Mascaro is not unique in South Bend, Ind. Her success illustrates the commitment Notre Dame makes to nurture its athletes both in the classroom and in the arena.p. “I remember my coach rushing me from the airport once after a red-eye flight so I could get to a class on time,” Mascaro says. “You were surrounded by people who were passionate about both athletics and schoolwork, and they always did what was necessary to help you succeed.”p. Notre Dame uses a first-year studies program that delays enrolling in a specific college and encourages students to cast a wide net in their course selections.p. “It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for what college is like and for kids to see what they want to do and where they want to go,” says Pat Holmes, the school’s director of academic services for student-athletes, an office that bridges gaps between academics and athletics. “The transition year (from high school) is so critical, and if there are hurdles, we want to be proactive.”p. This broad freshman-year approach was a turning point for Mascaro.p. “I wanted to go into some kind of science, but I wasn’t sure where,” she says. “I wound up taking an anthropology course that I wouldn’t have otherwise and discovered that’s what I loved.”p. Mascaro also benefited from Notre Dame’s mentoring program that matches students and faculty.p. “The idea is to pair you with someone doing what you wanted to do,” she says. “I was with a biology professor for most of my freshman and sophomore years and worked in his lab for a summer. That was a great experience.”p. Mascaro married her high school sweetheart before her senior year, then played two seasons for the San Diego Spirit after receiving her degree in anthropology. She retired from pro soccer after 2002 to join her husband, who is working toward an advanced degree in clinical psychology at Texas A&M.p. When her husband finishes, Mascaro will resume her studies to become a primatologist, studying non-human primates.p. And she will continue as a shining example of Notre Dame’s commitment.p. “We have a responsibility to provide not only a degree but the education we promised them when we recruited them,” Holmes says. “Our role is to help them maximize their potential in both worlds.”

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