After 10-year timeout, basketball coach graduates from college - RED - Relevant. Essential. Denver.
Photo by Alyson McClaran

After 10-year timeout, basketball coach graduates from college

When the pandemic compelled him to stay home for his kids, a former MSU Denver coach scored his degree with an assist from a Displaced Worker Grant.

December 10, 2020

By Matt Watson

Erik Shoeneman’s coaching career spans multiple colleges, but his own education was incomplete.

To put his academic career into basketball terms, he dribbled the length of the court and was under the hoop poised to score a degree-winning dunk when he instead called timeout.


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After a decade on the academic bench, Shoeneman, 47, is graduating Friday from Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he has also served two stints as an assistant women’s basketball coach. For better and for worse, the COVID-19 pandemic was the impetus for finishing his degree, which he will earn with an assist from the Displaced Worker Grants offered in coordination with the State of Colorado to those whose careers or wages have been negatively affected by the pandemic.

Shoeneman paused his academic career around the time the first of his two sons was born. He was only two classes short of his degree, but he was a nontraditional student with a good job and other priorities, namely raising his children. When the pandemic last spring halted in-person learning at his kids’ elementary school, he and his wife decided the best thing for the family was for Shoeneman to leave his account-management job while she continued hers so that Erik could focus on the children’s studies – and pick back up where his left off, too.

Erik Shoeneman shoots the ball as his sons, Henrik, 8, right, and Augustus, 6, watch outside of their home in Golden, CO. Shoeneman was an assistant women
Erik Shoeneman shoots the ball as his sons, Henrik, 8, right, and Augustus, 6, watch outside of their home in Golden, CO. Shoeneman was an assistant women's basketball coach at MSU Denver. Photo by Alyson McClaran

“(The pandemic) forced us into a situation where we had to evaluate our own household and make some decisions,” he said. “I had just a few credits left to complete my degree, which is something that has always been on my bucket list.

“It was kind of nonsensical that I hadn’t had it done yet, but life happens.”

But it’s not just Shoeneman’s story that is unique – so, too, is his degree. He will be the only behavioral-science graduate to walk the virtual Commencement stage because the University no longer offers the degree. It was made possible with some college coaching by Associate Director of Advising Matt Kring, who helped Shoeneman complete the degree he had started by tying his coursework to the 2004 course catalog.

Erik Shoeneman works on school assignments alongside his sons Henrik, 8, left, and Augustus, 6, who also are home from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Alyson McClaran
Erik Shoeneman works on school assignments alongside his sons Henrik, 8, left, and Augustus, 6, who also are home from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Alyson McClaran

It was also Kring who connected Shoeneman with the Displaced Worker Grants program. It allows MSU Denver to support displaced workers who want to finish their college degrees with scholarships and career coaching, as long as they can complete a certificate or a degree program at the University by May 2022.

There were more than 30 displaced workers using the grant at MSU Denver this fall, and three are graduating Friday after returning to school for one semester.


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Shoeneman says he was a “bad student” when he first enrolled in community college right after high school and that a little life experience makes some students appreciate education more. It was important to him and his wife to show their children the value of an education and encourage them not to give up on their goals.

“We want to make sure that we can tell our kids, ‘Hey, it’s never too late to go for something. Education is important. We want you to always keep pushing forward for the things that you want,’” he said.


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