Championing careers

New programs for student athletes channel competitive spirit toward career growth

Classes, studying, training — with this jam-packed schedule, Kansas State University track and field athlete Monique Hardy barely has time for lunch, let alone to focus on her future career.

But now, a recent $11.5 million investment from Ike and Letty Evans to the Student-Athlete Success and Competitive Advantage Programs empowers K-State Athletics staff to give Monique — and every K-State student athlete — the coaching she needs to score her personal best.

Hailing from Rochester, New York, Hardy throws the hammer for K-State and is majoring in life sciences on the pre-pharmacy track. As an out-of-state student, Hardy doesn’t have the local connections to help her get internships. That’s where the Competitive Advantage Program (CAP) comes in.

“I get help with my resume, my cover letter and seeking jobs,” Hardy explained. “It’s hard for student athletes to work on those things alone because you’re so busy with your sport. The CAP staff help with outreach to the community and helping us find out what we want to do with our careers, whether it be in athletics or beyond athletics.”

Program-changing investment

Prior to the Evans gift, K-State Athletics’ Student-Athlete Success (SAS) program staff juggled multiple responsibilities, often doing the work of two or three positions. This prevented them from fully focusing on each program — and from giving student-athletes the focus necessary to reach their full potential.

“The gift from Ike and Letty Evans is program changing. And for our staff, it’s career changing,” said Kristin Waller, assistant athletics director for Student-Athlete Success. “A lot of things we’ve wanted to provide, we now have the people to devote to that because we’ve been able to hire more people.”

The SAS and CAP programs are unique to collegiate athletics. Other schools have aspects of the programs, but with the Evans gift, K-State has crafted a start-to-finish experience for high school recruits to graduating college seniors. K-State coaches say it’s a great recruiting tool because it shows that K-State cares about students throughout their whole collegiate career and beyond.

Professional prep

With the increased bandwidth, SAS launched a new internship program that collaborates with K-State’s Career Services, the Staley School of Leadership and with local businesses to find students career-enhancing experiences.

“The internship program gives students the opportunity to gain more experience in their fields or to gather information to see if it’s something they want to do,” Waller said. “And they get class credit.”

Hardy’s face lit up while talking about her summer internship with the Manhattan Boys and Girls Club, which she got with help from the CAP program.

“I didn’t know anything about getting an internship,” Hardy explained. “But I knew I wanted to do something that was community based this summer and next year do something more connected to my degree. CAP helped me get ready, preparing me for questions they might ask and running me through a mock interview.”

Off the field victory

Ike and Letty Evans have fond memories of their time at K-State in the early 1960s, where they met and married. Ike played on the baseball team and once had to take a physics test in his uniform, having just come from pitching a game. The Evanses personally understand college athletes have a lot of balls in the air and need coaching to thrive on campus and prepare for successful futures.

“Letty and I are passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people,” Ike said. “Our giving is about education, self-help and preparing young people to go to work and be successful in their lives. Most gifts to athletics are for on the field. This is off the field. The kids have to take the initiative, but we’re going to be there for them.”

While the Evanses’ investment has already proved beneficial to staff and students, more can be done.

“There is opportunity to endow positions, freeing up budgeted salary funds to be used toward other things that directly benefit the student athletes, such as sports medicine and mental wellness,” Waller said. “Endowed positions support the people who will forge relationships with the students, leading those students toward success, however that looks.”

Services provided by SAS and CAP are available to all student athletes, including incoming high school recruits, but are not mandatory unless a team coach requires participation. The goal is to not add to an overstuffed schedule. But Hardy highly recommends student athletes take advantage of the services.

“It’s 100% beneficial! It is hard for us student athletes to focus on what we want to do after college and to also find those connections outside our sport,” Hardy said. “I feel like the Evans program really helped us create those connections and see a broader view.”

Coaches’ inspiring words have left an impression on Hardy.

“One quote I live by is ‘Your character will take you where your talent can’t keep you,’” she said.
“The Evans program adds to your skills. You can use those — along with who you are — to go into your professional career. The program is beneficial because it helps us have a view outside of athletics.”

*This article first appeared in the fall 2022 issue of the K-Stater magazine.

How it works

All student athletes have access to tutoring and academic assistance, sport psychology and mental wellness resources. Program milestones include:


  • Guide the recruit through eligibility, admissions, class selection and enrollment
  • Create a seamless transition to their K-State experience


  • Help with transition to college-level learning and college live
  • Identify learning strategies
  • Explore career interests
  • Establish foundational skills and habits for academic success


  • Increase confidence in problem solving and decision making
  • Explore career and major interests
  • Build professional profiles and networks


  • Continue leadership development
  • Put professional networks to use finding internships
  • Put learned skills into practice and move toward independence


  • Have complete ownership of their academics
  • Polish professional portfolios and interview skills
  • Solidify post-graduate plans
  • Successfully transition into the professional world

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