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Nancy Sampson is all about the ‘student’ in student-athlete

Nancy Sampson

In all that she does, Nancy Sampson has one primary goal: to make sure students know that a faculty member cares about them as individuals. Photo: Tim Ryan

If you visit management Prof. Nancy Sampson’s office, you’ll quickly learn what she’s passionate about. Posters and photos of every Pioneers athletic team fill her bulletin board to overflowing. Photographs of students nearly outnumber the books on her shelves.

“I wouldn’t be here without the students,” says Sampson, BSBA ’65.

In the 33 years that she’s been teaching in DU’s Daniels College of Business, Sampson has become something of a campus icon. She is recognizable because she is always around—attending events, networking with coaches, volunteering for committees or visiting with students, who regularly drop by her office for advice or simply for a piece of candy from the bowl she keeps on her desk.

“She’s probably the most visible faculty member to all student-athletes,” says women’s basketball Head Coach Pam Tanner.

Every year, Sampson attends at least one event for each of DU’s 17 athletic teams. She serves as the University’s faculty representative to the NCAA. And as a member of DU’s faculty athletic committee, Sampson provides academic advising for student-athletes, aiming to help them graduate on time and pursue a viable future.

The women’s basketball team, for one, can’t start a new season without Sampson. Every year for the past decade, Sampson has joined the team on the first day of practice and made a shot in every basket in the gym. “Her shot has improved over the last 10 years,” Tanner says with a smile.

The deep interest that Sampson shows in student-athletes is, perhaps, surprising, since she wasn’t a collegiate athlete herself. (DU didn’t sponsor women’s athletics when she was a student, Sampson says.)

Still, Sampson’s energetic engagement with students isn’t limited to the playing field. When she has a student performing in a play, for example, Sampson will attend that event, too.

With all of her students—athletes and non-athletes alike—Sampson’s goal is to “make sure that they know there’s a faculty member who cares about them as individuals,” she says.

Sampson sees her relationships with students as mutually beneficial. She offers students space to discuss a concern or just say hello. But as she advises students on the best classes to take or how to balance their busy schedules, she also gleans new ideas and fresh energy.

“She will go to any degree to help the students that she mentors,” says Angie Palmer, a senior management major who Sampson has advised for four years. Palmer describes Sampson as her “advocate” at DU. Sampson has shown Palmer the best classes to take, assisted her in getting two internships and helped her look for a job, she says.

Sampson points out that her efforts on behalf of student-athletes are not favoritism. Rather, she says, her attention serves to challenge them to achieve their best academically as well as athletically. In recent years, Sampson has encouraged graduating student-athletes to continue their education by applying for the NCAA Post Graduate Scholarship, which provides up to $7,500 for graduate education. She has spent countless hours working with “excellent students who are also excellent student-athletes” to get the scholarship, and with her help, 19 student-athletes have garnered the award.

Sampson’s relationship with students doesn’t end with graduation. Not a week goes by, she says, when she doesn’t receive e-mail from a former student excited to update her on their post-DU life.

In the end, Sampson says her greatest reward is watching her hardworking students complete their education. “I don’t need any pay off,” she says. “Them graduating and feeling good about what they did here is good enough for me.”


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