Exercise science undergrad Haley Yaw named Truman Scholar Finalist

April 28, 2016

Russell Pate

Haley Yaw

After a nationwide competition, exercise science undergrad Haley Yaw has been named a Truman Scholar/Finalist. She is part of an elite group of juniors to make it this far in the selection—and one of only two chosen from S.C.

Created in 1975 in memory of the 33rd U.S. President, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established to advance President Truman’s belief that a better future relies on attracting the commitment and sound judgment of outstanding young leaders to public service. Truman Scholarships support the graduate education and professional development of future leaders with the highest potential. Truman Scholars make a difference across the U.S. and around the world.  

The entire process is very selective and begins with candidates pooled from nominations (limit of four per institution) made by a scholarship committee. This year, 775 students were nominated from 305 institutions. After careful analysis of each candidate’s comprehensive application package, that pool was narrowed to less than 200 finalists from 130 institutions. With two finalists (Yaw and geography and marine science major Jory Fleming), the University of South Carolina was the only S.C.-based institution whose nominees made it to the finalist round.

Yaw’s nomination is not surprising given her resume. She is already a McKissick Scholar and was a finalist for the Mount Vernon Fellowship in 2015. She’s also a member of the South Carolina Honors College, the Service Director for Omega Phi Alpha, a U101 Peer Leader, a data collector for Policy to Practice in Youth Programs, and a physical therapist aide.

Originally from Portsmouth, R.I. where she ran cross country and track as a high school student, Yaw chose exercise science as her major after being inspired by the physical therapists who treated her numerous times for running injuries. “I was impressed by the high-energy environment and one-on-one time physical therapists dedicate to their patients, so I knew that it would be a great career decision,” she says.

The daughter of Naval officer, Yaw also knew she wanted to work with veterans. “My passion for veterans’ health care stems from my father's 29 years of military service,” she says. “Seeing the sacrifices that not only my dad, but my mom as well, made during those years has pushed me to provide care to service members who give so much to our country.”

In addition to providing health services to veterans, Yaw believes that physical therapists return a part of humanity to those who have experienced combat. “Physical therapists are an essential part of holistic health care and help veterans cope with disabilities, chronic pain, and other traumatic wounds so they can focus on their mental health and other invisible wounds,” she says. “More and more evidence is being shown of the benefits of yoga, adaptive sports, and other exercise therapies, which physical therapists can promote and take an active role in with their veteran clients.”

While Yaw initially planned to complete her exercise science degree and become a physical therapist within the Veterans Administration, her past few years with the Arnold School have expanded her vision “Through my classes, I was challenged by my professors to think more about how I could have a lasting impact within the Veterans Administration,” she explains. “Under the invaluable guidance from both Dr. Charlotte Galloway and Dr. Sara Corwin, I discovered that the right path for my career will be to gain clinical practice and experience within the Veterans Administration as a physical therapist and then become a policy maker.”

With her goals refined, Yaw plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science next year, become a physical therapist through Army Baylor (where tuition will be covered for those accepted) and gain some experience, and then return to school to earn a Master’s in Health Administration (MHA) so that she can become a policy maker for veterans. These plans have motivated Yaw to find support mechanisms to make them happen—and one reason why she was honored to be nominated USC and then selected as a Truman Scholar Finalist.

“I am grateful and honored by the USC committee’s decision to nominate me to represent Carolina,” she says. When asked why she thinks she was selected as a finalist, she says that she believes her passion and conviction for serving veterans as a part of her everyday life must have shown throughout the application and interview process.

Regardless of how she makes it happen, Yaw plans to gain insight on how mind-body medicine is regarded within the medical community and among veterans during her time in physical therapy school. She also plans to use her future MHA program learn more about holistic health care works and how attainable that might be in the context of the Veterans Administration. “The Arnold School has shown me the importance of continuing education,” Yaw says. “I would like to thank the faculty and staff for challenging me and pushing me to recognize new dreams and goals and to have confidence in my ability to help others.”

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