As a former college student-athlete, Shaquille Spearman knows the ins and outs of what it takes to compete and learn at the same time.
"A lot of people misinterpret or don't understand the schedule of an athlete at all levels," he said. "I want to be over the academic portion of an athletic department to emphasize the demand for academic success."
That's why Spearman graduated from the online Master of Science in Sport Administration program at Arkansas State University (A-State) in 2016.
"I went back for the master's degree to expand my understanding of sport administration at all three levels — high school, college and professional," he said. "It was tons of information on governance, finance, operations. It was a good program."
Spearman is a math Cambridge instructor and coach at Universal Academy in Irving, Texas, where he is in his fourth year. Earning the degree online helped him maintain a full-time job during the 12 months he was in A-State's program.
"Doing the master's degree program online was pretty manageable," he said. "I had a lot of flexibility. It was demanding, but with the way the professors presented and scheduled the work, it was a good experience."
Twist of Fate
Spearman grew up in North Little Rock, Arkansas, where he excelled on the football field. He went on to play as running back and wide receiver at the University of St. Mary (Kansas) before transferring to A-State in 2010.
"I loved the school and Jonesboro," he said. "When I got to the campus, the atmosphere was so laid back. It felt like home. I played football at A-State for one year."
However, one sports injury took Spearman off the field for a while. Luckily, that experience had a silver lining, and he gained clarity on what he wanted for his future.
"I was so sad when [the injury] happened," he said, "but I took education more seriously. I ended up being an educator working in sports at my school."
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in counseling from A-State in 2014, Spearman gained real-world experience before returning to his alma mater for a graduate degree. He added to his resume both graduating certificates in non-profit, public and organizational management and contemporary theory in couple and family systems from Capella University.
"It was exciting to come back to A-State — even though I did it online," he said. "I did some online courses with my graduate certifications, but this was my first fully-online program. It was a great experience."
Sport Finance & Budgeting was Spearman's favorite course in the online MS in Sport Administration program curriculum.
"I liked understanding the intricacies of growing a sports program financially, whether it's from an operational standpoint, fundraising or ticket sales," he said. "That course opens your mind to what it's like to run sports as a business."
Spearman — who enjoys watching football, playing piano and cooking in his free time — is still adding to his higher education playbook these days.
He enrolled in a Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction program at another university one year ago. Thus, Spearman is already the first person in his immediate family to earn a graduate-level degree and is on track to graduate with his doctorate in 2023.
"My family and friends were excited and confused that I was doing more schooling," he said. "Now, I'm doing more, but they are used to it."
The online MS in Sport Administration program at A-State gave Spearman the broad perspective he needed to become an administrator. As a result, he is on track to achieve his career goal and pass on his knowledge to future generations of student-athletes.
"You have to open your mind and take away everything you thought you knew about the way that sports are run in this master's program," he said. "Also, make sure you stay diligent about understanding the intricacies because they're always changing."
Although Spearman misses suiting up and competing on the gridiron, he feels good about the direction his life has taken after his playing days.
"The master's degree worked out well for me. It has opened up some major opportunities in my career. It was a good program. I still use what I learned in it every day."
Learn more about A-State's online MS in Sport Administration program.