Valerie Adams is ready for the next challenging step in her academic life.
And already she’s plotting the step after that.
After graduating from Saginaw Valley State University in May, she will move to North Carolina, where she is enrolled in the highly competitive Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Duke University.
The exercise science major begins the 3-year program at Duke next fall. With that destination locked in, she’s begun seeking institutions offering a Ph.D. in epidemiology, the study of the spread of disease.
“I would love to do research and be engaged in both the clinical and research side of things,” the Washington Township native said.
Adams, a 2011 graduate of Rochester Stoney Creek High School, hopes to open her own physical therapy clinic and specialize in women's health.
Rebecca Schlaff, SVSU assistant professor of kinesiology, was 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.
“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,” Schlaff said.
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 SVSU 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 with plans to publish her research. She also has served as a student research assistant for two faculty grant projects.
In addition to her academic prowess, Adams has served other leadership positions on campus. She is the fitness coordinator for SVSU’s Campus Recreation office, overseeing the Fit Into College Program that teaches 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.
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,” she said. “They're reachable and I need to tackle them.”