Academic Excellence Honored at SASS Gala

Academic Excellence Honored at SASS Gala

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State’s Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) recognized the academic success of Spartan student-athletes during the 27th annual Spartan Academic Excellence Gala on Monday evening at the Breslin Center.
To qualify for the academic gala, student-athletes must be in at least their third semester at MSU and have obtained a minimum 3.00 cumulative grade point average (GPA) or have earned a 3.00 or higher GPA during the 2023 calendar year. Graduates are recognized as well.

Steve Smith, a Spartan basketball All-American, NBA Champion, and Olympic medalist, was the event’s keynote speaker.   In 1998, thanks to Smith’s philanthropic support, the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center (named for Smith’s mother) opened its doors.  Over its 25 years, it has grown into a place that serves the University’s student-athletes from high school (during an athlete’s recruitment) through adulthood with career services for former athletes of any age. In between, current students and those returning to finish their education have access to utilize the network of Spartan alumni around the world for guidance, connections, and potential employment.


President's Award Recipients Ashley Harlock and Aden Smith
Ashley Harlock (field hockey) and Aden Smith (cross country/track & field)


Ashley Harlock, field hockey

Aden Smith, cross country/track & field

The President’s Award – the most prestigious individual academic honor in the athletic department – is given to the male and female graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average and who has exhausted their eligibility and completed their degree in the 2023-24 academic year.

Ashley Harlock has embraced every aspect of her college experience while executing her path to success. This three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten recipient maintains a perfect 4.0 grade point average double majoring in Neuroscience and Human Biology. The 2023-2024 team captain is a member of the Honors College and has earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester at MSU. In addition, she was nominated by MSU for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and named a National finalist for the Marshall Scholarship. Upon graduation, Harlock will pursue her PhD in Neuroscience.

Aden Smith has experienced tremendous success throughout his career at Michigan State. With his degree in Human Biology and an additional major in Psychology, this four-time Academic All-Big Ten recipient currently maintains a 3.96 grade point average and has earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester. As a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honoree and 2022 US Track and Field and Cross Country Association All-Academic team member, Smith has demonstrated his commitment to academic excellence. In addition to his academic accolades, Smith is a four-year letter winner in Cross Country and three-year letter winner in Track and Field and was the first Spartan individual to win the Griak Invitational Meet. Upon graduation, he plans to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant.



Men’s tennis and women’s golf

The Athletic Director’s Award is presented to the male and female team with the highest cumulative grade point average after the fall 2023 semester.

The men’s tennis team consistently sets the standard for academic excellence. This year’s win marks the seventeenth time the team has won the Athletic Director’s Award, more than any other team in the Athletic Department. Their dedication and hard work are also showcased on the court, where they have earned their highest national ranking in program history. The team maintains a 3.607 cumulative grade point average and all eligible members qualified for the Gala.

The women’s golf team continues to redefine excellence, both academically and athletically. A perennial NCAA championship qualifier, they have clinched the Athletic Director’s Award an impressive eleven times, surpassing all other women’s teams. The squad’s 3.856 cumulative grade point average is the second all-time highest in the Athletic Department, surpassed only by the team’s 3.858 last year. This fall, six members of the team earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average, exemplifying their unwavering commitment and dedication to their sport and academics.




Ashley Harlock
, Field Hockey

Presented to the student-athlete who has demonstrated the highest level of commitment to impacting the areas of leadership and community service.


Ashley Harlock has excelled at the highest levels of athletics, academics, community service, and leadership. In addition to being a 2023-2024 team captain, Ashley has dedicated numerous hours enhancing the college experience for her fellow student-athletes. She serves as the President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, actively participating in various community service activities such as the Student-Athlete Food Drive, Be The Match, and March is Reading Month. Ashley’s impact extends beyond her team as well. This year, she is a member of the MSU Student Leadership Council, the MSU Athletic Council, and a representative on the Big Ten Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, showcasing her outstanding leadership and commitment to impacting those around her.

Gabi Stephan SASS gala
Gabrielle Stephen


Gabrielle Stephen,

Presented to a student-athlete who exhibits strong leadership in diversity initiatives within athletics, on campus, and in the community.

Gabrielle Stephen, a junior Gymnastics student-athlete, stands out for her dedicated commitment to advancing diversity and leadership programming within the Department of Athletics and the broader campus community. Through her active involvement with the Athletic Department’s Diversity and Leadership Committee (DLC) and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Stephen has exhibited exceptional leadership in creating an environment conducive to impactful conversations about diversity among her peers. This two-time team captain represented MSU at the 2023 Black Student-Athlete Summit in Los Angeles and the NIL Summit in Atlanta. Stephen has also made a positive impact in the community by participating in events such as Special Olympics, Salvation Army Toy Shop, and Suicide Prevention Awareness.


Theryn Hallock,
women’s basketball

Dillon Tatum, football

Presented to the outstanding male and female freshman or sophomore student-athlete who embodies the characteristics promoted by Student- Athlete Support Services. Emphasis is placed on academic performance, community involvement, and leadership ability.


Provost Award Winners
Dillon Tatum (football) and Theryn Hallock (women’s basketball)

Despite being only a sophomore, Theryn Hallock has already exhibited a strong commitment to excellence in the classroom, in the community, and on the court. This Advertising Management major has earned a spot on the Dean’s List in Spring 2023. Hallock’s academic achievements were recognized when she was named a 2024 Academic All-Big Ten honoree. Athletically, she has also excelled earning the title of 2023-2024 Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year as well as being the 2022-2023 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree. Beyond athletics, Hallock demonstrates leadership and community engagement as a 2023-2024 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee member and her active participation in community service events such as Teams for Toys, Student-Athlete Food Drive and elementary school readings.

Sophomore Dillon Tatum has already made a significant impact as a student-athlete at Michigan State. On top of being a two-time varsity letterwinner and a member of the Dean’s List, Tatum has been actively involved in numerous extracurricular activities. In 2022 he had the opportunity to be a part of the Study Abroad program in Australia, attend the Black Student-Athlete Summit in Los Angeles, and the NIL Summit in Atlanta. Furthermore, Dillon’s commitment to personal growth and learning is evidenced by his participation in the EXP Career Trip to Detroit and the Big Life Series: Selma to Montgomery. Dillon has also given back to the community, participating in elementary school readings, the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan, and Team Impact.



The Scholar-Athlete Awards are presented to the individual from each team who has reached at least junior academic status, has received a minimum of one varsity letter, has competed during the 2023-24 season, and while meeting these requirements, maintains the highest cumulative grade point average on their team.

BASEBALL:  Dillon Kark


WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Isaline Alexander

MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY:  Tyler Pritchett


FIELD HOCKEY:  Jillian Bonczewski & Ashley Harlock

FOOTBALL:  Samuel Edwards

MEN’S GOLF: Satchel Pierce


GYMNASTICS: Genevieve Lebster

HOCKEY:  Nash Nienhuis

ROWING: Colby Orcutt

MEN’S SOCCER:  Zac Kelly

WOMEN’S SOCCER: Justina Gaynor


MEN’S TENNIS:  Luke Baylis & Josh Portnoy


MEN’S TRACK & FIELD:  Brendan Vander Meer

WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD: Valadian Pallett

VOLLEYBALL: Julia Bishop



Read More