The time commitment involved in being a college athlete is similar to holding a full-time job that requires frequent business trips and out-of-office demands that stretch far beyond the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day.

While no athlete could realistically claim that playing a college sport does not come with a lifetime of valued memories, the fact of the matter is that the taxing schedules of these athletes are much unlike the schedules of other students on campus.

Still, student-athletes, just as normal students, have enrolled at Mason with one common goal: graduate with a degree at one of the most prestigious universities in Virginia.

In a recent study released by the NCAA, the association found that student-athletes who enrolled at Mason from 2002-05 – and, therefore, graduated between 2006-10 – scored a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 80 percent. According to the study, men’s basketball, men’s golf, women’s rowing, women’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis and women’s volleyball all finished with a perfect score of 100 percent and eleven teams scored greater than 80 percent.

Such astounding statistics are certainly not unheard of in the association, but the accomplishments of these athletes should be applauded and recognized as Mason’s commitment to excellence in all facets of the student experience.

This vow to strive for perfection in academics and research stretches far beyond the average student; it is a promise that Mason has put forth, encouraging its student-athletes to strive for higher achievement. More than a quarter of all student-athletes carried a 3.5 GPA or better in the Fall 2011 semester and 199 student-athletes received the CAA Commissioner’s Award, an honor earned by only those athletes who obtain a GPA of 3.2 of better.

Along with this academic commitment for athletes, the Mason Athletic Department has entrusted ample resources to challenge athletes to strive to be the best – in their respective sports, in the classrooms and in the cafeteria.

The department introduced Peak Performance, a sports specific dining experience, to the Southside dining hall this semester. The meals are planned by the sports dietician and are specifically tailored to the demands of an elite college athlete. It is a sports nutrition component in Mason’s Center for Sports Performance, a program designed to provide student-athletes with the resources to achieve the highest levels of performance ability.

While expansion to South Korea and Front Royal are important to the community recognition of this university, excellence on the home front – especially excellence that begins with those who are most visible – is pertinent to the reputation to the university.

And, once again, Mason has exceeded expectations.