Tackling the classroom with faculty teammates

When playing football, finding a good stance, keeping your eyes on the ball and avoiding getting tackled can lead to a touchdown. Similarly, college students go to class, study for exams and make time for friends all while trying not to get tackled by distractions. After graduating from high school in Houston, Texas, Robert Revels III (BA’ 20) signed with The University of Tulsa’s Golden Hurricane football team as a linebacker. He later found it difficult to manage college life, but with the help of a professor, he gained the footing he needed to finish strong.

"Football was the only thing I really cared about. I didn't value education."

Growing up, Revels was a natural athlete. Football was a top priority. “Football was the only thing I really cared about. I didn’t value education,” he explained. As a Division I college athlete, he was overwhelmed with his class and practice schedule; Revels, majoring in organizational work studies, was placed on academic probation during his freshman year. “I didn’t see a way for me to graduate. At the time I just felt like I needed to change schools,” he said. Then, he met TU Associate Professor of Psychology Lisa Cromer who assured him he was meant to do admirable work in life.

While enrolled in Cromer’s Intro to Psychology class Revels was a stand-out student. “He was actively involved in class discussions. It was easy to get to know him,” she explained.

A flag on the field

Revels was a student who could absorb like a sponge a lecture on the five perspectives and psychological methods and crave to learn more. Cromer could see the wheels turning in Revels’ head, and he wasn’t afraid to ask questions. “Usually as a professor, you can tell how involved students are — by their facial expressions or whether they’re sneaking peeks at their phone, versus making eye contact, and by how animated they are in class,” she said.

"It wasn't about understanding for him - It was about being able to communicate that understanding."

Although his class engagement was high, his first test grade was lower than what Cromer had predicted. Like any student, he was concerned about his grade and wanted to improve it. “That’s how I really got to know Rob. He took initiative. He came to me after every single class. We started talking about the class from the moment we left the classroom, all the way back to my office, where he would stay and teach the class back to me, to help him learn how to communicate the concepts. It wasn’t about understanding for him—it was about being able to communicate that understanding,” she explained.

Making the play

After teaching at TU for more than 10 years, Cromer has noticed that some students are less prepared for college instruction. They struggle to take what they have learned, process it and effectively communicate it to somebody else in writing, on a test or in an essay. This was the case with Revels, so the two teamed up to improve his overall academic performance. “Professor Cromer helped me realize that I had to focus on my classes and apply that same focus from sports to school and then things will work out for me,” Revels said. In the three years he met with her, his GPA greatly improved.

"I just want you to know you changed my life."

One afternoon, when Cromer and Revels ran into each other Revels said, “I just want you to know you changed my life,” words Cromer said she will never forget and validation for why she chose the teaching profession.

TU has an 11:1 student/faculty ratio with an average of 20 students per class. “This advantage allows faculty to reach out to students. It’s something unique and special about TU. That’s why parents choose TU – it’s a school where a small class size means their kids are going to be known by a first and last name instead of just being a number on a long spreadsheet,” Cromer explained.

Revels has significantly raised his grades and found his faith while at TU. He also has been recognized for his hard work with the Classroom Grit Award from the Faculty Athletic Board and was named first-team National Academic Momentum Award. With one year of football eligibility remaining at TU, he plans to pursue an MBA.