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Intercollegiate Athletics

League of Their Own

Student-Athletes Get High Scores in Class and on the Field, Thanks to a Vital Assist from Scholarships

By Andres Cardenas

Intercollegiate Athletics - There are nearly 250 student-athletes competing on 10 teams at Cal Poly Pomona.

Ariel Marsh and Justin Ellerbee are the epitome of what every current Cal Poly Pomona student-athlete strives to achieve. 

Both graduated with high honors — qualifying for the Dean’s List multiple times — and are making impacts in their respective careers. Marsh accepted a fellowship from a nonprofit organization in New York helping businesses become more responsible, while Ellerbee is an aerospace test engineer in Silicon Valley. 

However, the classroom was not the only arena
where they excelled. Marsh found success for three years on the basketball court inside Kellogg Gym, where she
was a starter for two seasons and became an exclusive member of the university’s 1,000-point club. Ellerbee’s other classroom was Kellogg Field, where he jumped higher than any other Bronco in school history (17 feet, 6.5 inches) in the pole vault and won a NCAA Division II title. 

The California Collegiate Athletic Association honored their success on and off the field by selecting them as the conference’s 2014-15 student-athletes of the year. It is the first time that Cal Poly Pomona has swept the awards. 

“There is nothing I am more grateful for than having the opportunity to play basketball at a university while on scholarship,” Marsh says. “The collegiate athletics experience demanded on a daily basis that I be the best version of myself.” 

On a given weekday, about 250 student-athletes representing 10 teams will crisscross the campus on the way to class or to get ready for practice. 

Cal Poly Pomona is categorized as a Division II university, so most student-athletes receive partial scholarships that help with tuition, fees, room and board, which can reach upwards of $24,000. 

In order for Cal Poly Pomona to fund at the maximum amount allowed by the NCAA at the Division II level,
the university needs another $1 million to $1.2 million in gifts designated to student-athlete scholarships or to the Bronco Athletic Club. This is where donors become crucial role players. 

Marsh and Ellerbee had offers to compete and study elsewhere, but both became Broncos because they were attracted to the university’s rich history, academic excellence and scholarships. 

Ellerbee decided in high school to pursue a career in aerodynamics and knew about the university’s great engineering program. Starting his freshman year, he received experience operating wind tunnels, including a supersonic version that runs three times faster than the speed of sound. 

This hands-on experience helped him land his job at Ames Research Center near San Jose. He’ll be conducting more tests, which, to him, beats an analysis job at a desk.

“I’m going to be responsible for conducting wind tunnel tests using the biggest wind tunnel in the world,” Ellerbee says. “After a lot of training, of course.” 

This made his choice to attend the university clear. 

“I’m happy with my decision to attend Cal Poly Pomona because I still received a degree from a great school and I left school debt free,” Ellerbee says. 

Marsh received her undergraduate degree in communication in 2013 and her master’s two years later in regenerative studies. Her contributions to Cal Poly Pomona went beyond academics and athletics as she also set up a “Zero Waste” initiative that minimized the amount of trash after athletic events. It was an initiative she set up through her graduate program. 

Marsh also was nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. She credits her success to her professors and current and former administrators. 

“Cal Poly Pomona not only provided me with an excellent education but the opportunity to be surrounded by amazing people,” Marsh says. “I have learned an invaluable amount from the relationships I built with staff, administrators, professors, and even the former and current presidents. The support and encouragement I received at Cal Poly Pomona in the classroom and on the basketball court helped me reach my full potential.”