Academic-Athletic Fellows Spotlight – Rob L’Esperance

Rob L’Esperance is a lecturer in the Chemistry Department, teaching in the General Chemistry program. Rob is also the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Chemistry Department and has been at Princeton for 24 years, teaching for 19 of those years. Rob serves as an Academic-Athletic Fellow for the women’s lacrosse team, a role he has held since 2000.

Recently Rob took some time out of his schedule to share with the PVC some thoughts on his service as an Academic-Athletic Fellow and what it means to work closely with the Tiger women’s lacrosse team.

1. How would you describe your experience as an AAF?

It is a blast. Over the ten years I have been a Fellow with the women’s lacrosse team, I have had the opportunity to experience Division 1 athletics at its best. I have been involved in every aspect of the team life, including attending practices, being on the sidelines during the games, both home and away. I was on the sidelines when the team won Ivy championships and when we participated in post-season tournaments, including winning two NCAA National titles. I did not have these opportunities when I was a student in college.

2. Why did you become involved with the AAF program?

I have always had a number of lacrosse players in my classes. One year, there was a group of seven players in the class and due to their travel schedule; they were missing a number of lectures. We started meeting on a regular basis to go over the material they missed. During this meeting, I would always ask about their games and the team. They encouraged me to start coming to games and once I started going to the games, I was hooked on lacrosse. When head coach Chris Sailer asked the team for suggestions for a team AAF, my name was mentioned. I gladly accepted the invitation to join the team and have been with the team ever since.

3. What is the greatest benefit you have derived from serving as an AAF?

The greatest benefit is getting the opportunity to know the players as individuals. I have seen a different side of the players when interacting with them outside the classroom. I have been fortunate enough to travel with the team twice to Australia. (Not something I would have likely done on my own.) During these trips all the new experiences were enhanced by sharing the adventures with the players and coaches on the team.

4. How has your perspective on student-athletes changed as a result of your service as an AAF?

I realized that the student-athletes are hard working, dedicated individuals, with the ability to focus on a goal, and the perseverance to work through difficult situations. They are willing to take advice. When working with this group of students, I actually feel that I am being successful in teaching them chemistry, and that I am making a difference.

5. What advice would you give student-athletes to help them maximize their time at Princeton?

I would advise the student-athlete to appreciate that the skills which have made them successful in their sport will also help them achieve their academic goals. Also I would emphasize that everyone at Princeton; coaches, professors, and Deans, is committed to helping them achieve their goals, both on the field and in the classroom. There are numerous resources available to them for all aspects of their Princeton life, both in academics and athletics. Don’t be shy, and have fun.

6. How has your service as an AAF helped you as an educator at Princeton?

A large percentage of my students are involved in athletics. I now have a better understanding of their time commitments to their sport and an appreciation of their efforts to balance both academics and sport. Through this increased understanding I am better able to connect with this group of students.

7. What interaction or situation as an AAF gives you the most pride?

I am most proud of the team. While I enjoy the opportunities of getting to know the players as individuals, it is watching them bond together to form the “team.” I am most proud of. It is a perfect example of the whole being greater than the parts.

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