University of Alabama at Birmingham Head Cross Country and Associate Head Track and Field coach Matt Esche has one way to describe student-athlete Emily Drouin — self-motivated.
“I don’t think you could describe her any other way,” said Esche. “She’s got her goals, she knows what she wants to accomplish. She does everything with passion and drive, and that really fuels her athletics as well as academics.”
Drouin, who graduated in Spring 2019, runs between 55-60 miles per week, balancing team workouts, individual runs and her classes and assignments as a student in the UAB School of Nursing Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
“If you meet runners, they’re pretty highly disciplined people because it takes a lot of motivation to get out there and run. That’s how I have to be in my schedule. For example, I have class at 8 a.m., but I’ll get up to run at 5 a.m. because sometimes my school day goes from 8-5 p.m., and I don’t feel like running 10 miles after a full day of class,” said Drouin. “I also like the break my training gives me. Running can be stressful to some people, but it’s a form of meditation for me.”
Even with a busy schedule, Drouin received the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal for 2018-19. Medals are given to student-athletes with a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher. At the Conference USA Indoor Track and Field Championship Meet in February, she won the 5,000-meter run with the fourth fastest time in program history, 16:33:26. She also placed second in the 3,000-meter run at the 2019 Air Force Reserve C-USA Track and Field Chamionships.
The internal drive Drouin possesses is one the School sees in most student-athletes, said Assistant Dean for Student Success Pete Tofani, Ed.D, LTC(R).
“Our student athletes are all driven and disciplined because they have that dedication instilled in them through their coaches and teams. We see those traits come up in their classwork and nursing work as well,” Tofani said. “It’s a win-win for the School, coaches and athletes because student-athletes are well-qualified students, they’re disciplined and do really well in the classroom.”
Drouin transferred to UAB from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2016. Changing schools included retaking pre-requisites at UAB before applying to and entering the School of Nursing, but the transition allowed her to continue her athletic and academic careers simultaneously.
The School of Nursing works with coaches and athletes to establish a plan, Tofani said, and there has to be give and take on all sides. Athletes take on the responsibility of communicating early and often with their instructors; coaches need flexibility in practice schedules to accommodate clinicals twice a week; and faculty help with clinical placement that works in an athlete’s practice, game or meet schedule.
“The School of Nursing has definitely, definitely worked with us,” Esche said. “It’s a balance of give and take, and I think this shows that UAB and the School of Nursing care about our student-athletes. As coaches, we understand the rigor of coming to an excellent academic institution. We win championships, but we also make sure that these students graduate in the field they want to enter. We care about our kids and what they do afterwards.”
To accommodate what she knew would be one of her busiest semesters, Esche and Drouin created a three-year plan that allowed her to not compete in Fall 2018 and instead focus on clinicals and other schoolwork. She continued training, however, and returned to compete in track and field in Spring 2019.
“A lot of schools can’t accommodate an athlete’s schedule in this way, but on this campus, we make sure they’re truly student-athletes. They’re able to pursue both tracks without delaying their future careers,” Tofani said.