Valerie Adams has an extraordinary record of accomplishment at Saginaw Valley State University. Her latest achievement: gaining acceptance into the highly competitive Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Duke University.
An exercise science major from Washington Township, Adams will graduate from SVSU in May 2015 and begin the three-year program at Duke next fall. The 2011 graduate of Rochester Stoney Creek High School was confident about her choice of college major.
“I chose the field because I've always been very passionate about exercise in general,” she said. “I always thought I might want to pursue physical therapy, even from a young age when I went to physical therapy. I fell in love with the atmosphere of the clinic, the people and the relationships I built.”
Adams danced competitively for years and attended physical therapy in sixth grade after she was diagnosed with Achilles Tendinitis. She made a full recovery and appreciated the positivity from the physical therapists who worked with her.
Duke's physical therapy program has a pass/fail team-based learning curriculum so students can work together to focus on treating patients. This community-driven and supportive environment is appealing to Adams.
“Upon researching Duke, it was a no-brainer in terms of what their program had to offer,” Adams said.
Rebecca Schlaff, SVSU assistant professor of kinesiology, is Adams' faculty mentor for both her honors thesis and a research project designed by Adams. Schlaff said Adams already displays the initiative of a graduate student and young professional as she pushes herself to deeply understand the material covered in classes.
“Duke is a good choice for Val because their program will not only allow her to pursue her goal of becoming a physical therapist, but will also place her within a class of highly motivated, engaged, and inquisitive students like herself, pushing her to grow as a young professional,” Schlaff said.
“Of all the undergraduate students I have taught and mentored, I easily consider Val to be in the top 1 percent with respect to her intelligence, maturity, critical thinking ability, creativity, and capacity for high quality work.”
Eventually Adams would like to open her own physical therapy clinic and specialize in women's health. She also wants to complete a Ph.D. in epidemiology, the study of the spread of disease.
As a student, Adams has received funding from SVSU's Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Student Research and Creativity Institute for her research about athletes’ perceptions of nutrition and their athletic performance. She has presented her research at the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine conference, where she was awarded the Undergraduate Research Award of Excellence.
Through her research Schlaff said Adams has made a significant impact in educating student-athletes and her fellow kinesiology students about proper nutrition.
“Val truly is a leader among her peers, consistently seeking out opportunity to involve other students within any endeavor she engages, providing an excellent example for her peers. I truly believe these actions have significantly impacted the student culture within our department and will be felt for years after she graduates,” Schlaff said.
Adams is working on manuscripts in the hopes of publishing her research; she also is a student research assistant for two faculty grant projects.
Adams values her SVSU opportunities and is grateful to the faculty members who have supported her through her undergraduate experience.
“That has given me the encouragement I needed to pursue some of my dreams and some of my goals. They're reachable and I need to tackle them,” Adams said.
In addition to her academic prowess, Adams holds numerous other leadership positions on campus. She is the fitness coordinator for SVSU’s Campus Recreation office, overseeing the Fit Into College Program that teaches incoming SVSU freshmen about the value, fun and simplicity of leading a healthy lifestyle.
A resident assistant in SVSU’s Pine Grove apartments, Adams also is a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary. She serves on the board of directors for Forever Red, a student-alumni networking organization that raises funds for student scholarships, and is a member of the Student Exercise Science Association.
For more information on Duke’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program, visit dpt.duhs.duke.edu/About/