The father was agitated. His son, a student athlete at Xavier University, was due to graduate in three short weeks, or was he? Ben, (not his real name), had just told his Dad that he was having some “issues” in a 2nd year finance class, a course he would need to pass in order to graduate on time. “I’m calling Angela. She knows our son better than we do,” the exasperated father barked to his wife after hanging up with his son.
That afternoon, Angela soothed the overreacting father and assured him that his son had it under control and would be fine in his finance class, she thought. Welcome to the world of our next Musketeer on the Rise, “Den Mother,” Angela Wyss.
Angela Wyss is the Director of Student-Athlete Academic Support Services here at Xavier. Wyss has been taking care of student-athletes at Xavier and helping to calm frazzled parents since 2014. She oversees her staff of two full-time advisers, an administrative assistant, two grad interns and two student workers. Wyss and her group are responsible for over 300 student-athletes here at Xavier.
Wyss’ road to Xavier started 19 years ago while attending the University of Florida where she majored in Psychology. A major that she would find helpful dealing with your typical, driven D1 student-athlete.
Her first experience working with college athletes came as a Gator Guide, recruiting football players under legendary coach, Steve Spurrier. A Gator Guide is a voluntary position at the University of Florida that helps with recruiting on campus. These guides act as hosts for the football team and help the parents and recruits enjoy their experience on game day. This might include giving attendees a tour of the football stadium and campus, meeting academic advisers and answering any questions the visitors may have.
From Florida, Angela headed to Springfield College in Massachusetts to pursue a Master’s degree in Athletic Counseling. While in grad school, she logged over 400 hours working with student-athletes.
With her degrees in hand and some well earned job experience, Wyss was off to Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. Her tenure there extended from 2003-2007 where she served as Director of Student-Athlete Development. Her job description included working with and monitoring the academic progress of all 400 student athletes across twenty-one sports teams. And as if she didn't already have enough going on, Angela also started the American Cancer Society’s relay for life on campus, raising thousands of dollars for cancer research.
Wyss’ career then took her to Fort Collins, Colorado, where she was the Academic Coordinator at Colorado State University until 2009. Wyss also taught a freshman student-athlete transition course, facilitated the academic progress of the men’s and women’s basketball team, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s track and field.
In 2009, Angela headed back to Florida for a job at Florida Atlantic University. While there, Wyss served as the Associate Director for the Student-Athlete Center for Academic Excellence until 2014. She continued to work with several athletic teams, including men’s basketball as well as supervised two full time advisers.
Banners on the Parkway caught up with Wyss on the road during the 2019 men’s baseball season.
Banners on the Parkway: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Angela. Did you play sports growing up and if so, what were some of your favorites?
Wyss: I played anything I could. We were big supporters and members of the YMCA so every season came with another sport. I played softball, soccer, basketball and, believe it or not, I did bowling. My Mom was a big fan of staying busy. She didn't want us sitting on the couch all summer watching TV. I was on the golf team in high school and because I lived in Florida, we got to play some of the best courses for free. I love sports, I’m a sports junkie.
Banners on the Parkway: I know you wear a lot of hats with this job, can you give us a brief job description of what you do here at Xavier as the Director of Student-Athlete Student Support Services?
Wyss: The biggest part of my job and the favorite part of my job is working with four individual teams. I have men’s and women’s swimming, women’s basketball, and men’s baseball. On a day-to-day basis, my job is really spending time with the students, which means meeting with many of them on a regular basis. This helps them to stay on track academically. In these meetings we talk about their grades, what they have coming up, and we try to implement a weekly plan of what they are going to be working on. Our job is to help them manage their time and help them use their resources. I can be a “go-to” person they can utilize when they need help. We try and help them make good decisions and be accountable for those decisions because we are also known as success coaches. Finally, we tell them to have fun while they’re in college. But, make good decisions while you’re having fun.
Banners on the Parkway: What do you enjoy most about the job here at Xavier?
Wyss: My favorite thing is seeing a student progress and mature from Freshman year through Senior year. I love being part of that journey. If I’m able to help them, even just a little bit, to get across that stage, that’s my my favorite part. I admire their work ethic, just to be a college athlete is unbelievably challenging. There are so many things these student-athletes have to handle on a daily basis. I have so much respect for these young people and what they have to do to be successful. It’s bitter sweet watching them walk across the stage (at graduation) because they become like family. Graduation was the ultimate goal, so you’re happy for them, but you’re also kind of sad because you will miss them.
Banners on the Parkway: How does your undergrad degree in Psychology help you in your current position?
Wyss: It helps me understand people better, be more empathetic and a better listener. It also helps me to see what makes people tick a little bit.
Banners on the Parkway: Do you keep in touch with many of the student athletes that you have worked with over the years?
Wyss: Absolutely, they become part of your family. Their joy is my joy, you root for them no matter what they are doing in life. Sometimes I will get wedding and baby shower invitations. If they are in town, sometimes they’ll text me and ask if I want to meet up for lunch. Other times, they will call for life advice, such as “do you think it is wise for me to go back to school” or whatever it may be. I still talk with students from 16 years ago on the job.
Banners on the Parkway: What terrific relationships you've made over the years while impacting so many lives Angela. How would you compare Xavier to some of the other universities that you have been a part of in your career?
Wyss: Xavier is first and foremost a family environment. I have had the opportunity to get to know so many people on campus: the Deans, the President, the Provost, many of the teachers. In fact, the Provost just added me on Facebook the other day, which is unbelievable to me. I have a lot of good friends in different departments that I hang out with and go to lunch with.
Xavier has been one of the best experiences that I have been a part of. The coaches are really respectful and kind. The people at Xavier believe in the mission of the institution: to educate the full person and provide a holistic development for the student- athlete. You can feel people living the mission of the institution here at Xavier. Our graduation rates in the athletic department are second to none. They are top 30 in the country with a 97% graduation rate.
This has been my career my whole life. I went to Grad school for this. It’s been a dream of mine and I worked really hard to get here. I just love what I do. These young people keep me on my toes and make me laugh every day. It’s really an honor to be part of their lives.
Banners on the Parkway: Angela, can you tell us something about yourself that people may not know about you?
Wyss: Most people don’t know that for the first 5 years of my life, I lived on a farm in Ohio. We had 13 kids, 9 of which were foster kids and 4 were my blood siblings. We had one bathroom and it was in my parents’ room. We had lots of bunk beds and turned attics into bedrooms. We made it work and it was a lot of fun. Dinner was amazing, it was a project to say the least.
Also, people may not know that I really love the outdoors and enjoy boating and fishing. I’m a female that likes to fish because I grew up in Florida. My aunt and uncle would take me out in the boat to go fishing all the time. Sometimes we would go fishing on the beach, called surf fishing.
Banners on the Parkway: Angela, thanks so much for your time and especially the impact that you have on these student athletes here at Xavier. As a parent of one of them, we really appreciate you.