The title of Scott Desmond’s honors thesis sounds as if it could double for his future best-selling biography: “Participation in Collegiate Varsity Athletics and Its Effect on Long-Term Career Success.” Captain of the Clarkson men’s soccer team and 2010 recipient of the ECAC Scholar Athlete of the Year award for Division III, Desmond ’11 will leave Clarkson with a degree in Interdisciplinary Engineering and Management and competing job offers from global consulting firms such as IBM, Accenture, and Booz Allen Hamilton.
“For my thesis, Dr. Stephen Sauer and I hypothesized that participation in varsity athletics develops three unique skills: organizational commitment, ability to give and receive mentoring, and emotional intelligence,” says Desmond. “We found that former student athletes score higher on all three of these measures and have higher starting salaries and faster salary growth than their non-athlete counterparts. We also find that there are significant interaction effects for gender, such that male-student athletes score higher than male non-athletes on mentoring reception, mentoring others and emotional intelligence, while female student athletes and female non-athletes score the same."
Desmond is proof that mentoring works. At Clarkson, he’s been guided and goaded by a team of faculty mentors, including his soccer coaches, two thesis advisers and his “unofficial” adviser, Stephen Casper, a history professor who spotted Desmond’s potential as a freshman and prepared him to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship for the past three years.
“Preparing for the Rhodes was more of a self-reflecting journey than an application,’” Desmond says. “It didn’t end up working out, but even the process that I went through and the things I learned about myself made it extremely worthwhile.” One of the things he learned, with Professor Casper’s help, is that he wants to eventually pursue a PhD in sociology. First, there are those job offers to entertain.
Growing up in Enfield, Conn., Desmond knew Clarkson’s reputation as a strong engineering and business school, but it wasn’t until his freshman year that he learned he could combine both strengths into a single major.
“Interdisciplinary Engineering and Management fuses two disciplines in the most unique way I’ve seen in a college program,” says Desmond. Not only was it a great fit for his interests, but it also gave him a big-picture perspective into what engineers really do, how they work as part of a team, and their value to an organization.
Nowhere was that big-picture perspective made more clear than in the Honors Program, where Desmond and a select group of classmates from a variety of majors worked in teams on real-world challenges.
“In my sophomore year, President Collins came to the Honors class with the idea of developing the waterfront property along the Raquette River,” says Desmond, “and he wanted our input on how it could best benefit the student body.”
The class was divided into two teams, each with four working groups. Desmond was part of the economic group, working closely with regional contractors to get an accurate estimate of how much it would cost to build the student center along the riverfront. While some students assessed the social-capital value of adding structures such as a bridge spanning the Raquette and bike paths adjacent to the river, others ran models to measure the environmental effects of these designs on the fragile ecosystem.
“What’s amazing is that President Collins and the board incorporated a lot of our work into the Clarkson Master Plan,” says Desmond. A previous Honors class was responsible for the design of the new pedestrian bridge between Snell Hall and the Science Center, he says. Desmond is looking forward to his final semester in the Honors program, when he and his classmates will have one more opportunity to tackle a real-world challenge before graduation.
For Desmond, all of these real leadership opportunities — including the thrill of competing with and helping to lead a Division III soccer team — have led to real confidence. With thoughtful guidance from caring faculty mentors, his course is set for the long-term success he writes about in his Honors thesis. We can’t wait to read the next chapter.