Jackson State University is the first institution in the SWAC to receive from the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) a coveted certification granted only to schools that complete a rigorous evaluation process.

Nationwide, the 10-year certification has been extended to just 32 colleges and universities. In Mississippi, JSU and the University of Mississippi are the only two institutions to successfully complete the certification process. Jackson State is the third HBCU to achieve this benchmark, said Genese Lavalais, associate director of JSU Athletics for Academics/SWA.

The highly sought-after certification is based on guidelines for academic support programs for student-athletes established by the N4A and was awarded following a review May 18-19 of institutional academic performance and support programs  and conducted by Dena Freeman-Patton, deputy athletics director at California State University, Bakersfield, and Kenneth Miles, assistant vice chancellor of Academic Affairs and executive director at Louisiana State University.

Wheeler Brown, director of JSU Athletics, commended Lavalais and the entire team in Athletics for setting a goal and continuing to assert JSU’s academic leadership in the SWAC. ”This certification validates our program and confirms that we are committed to the success of our student athletes,” Brown added.

Lavalais said she was most pleased with how the spirit of ‘One JSU’ played out in the review process.

“We didn’t rehearse before the site visit. We were transparent with the evaluators, and it was evident to them that we care about our students. All of our administrators, tutors, staff and coaches were on the same page,” Lavalais said.

“The dedication of our staff and the quality of our tutoring, personal development, community service and institutional support programs are a result of our administration’s concern for our student-athletes,” she concluded.

This post originally appeared on Jackson State Newsroom.