Senior Haley Pittman has been named valedictorian for the class of 2011. The USD swimmer will graduate with a double major in communication studies and Spanish with a minor in art. Dedicated to philanthropy, Pittman has volunteered for the annual Donate a Dollar/TLC Toy Drive event through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She has also given her time to the Junior Seau Foundation Shop with a Jock, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk, the Light the Night walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. After graduation, she heads to St. Louis as a Teach for America volunteer.
Have you earned any other awards or recognitions we can tell our readers about?
Phi Beta Kappa, Alcala 100, USD Woman of Impact, Western Athletic Conference All-Academic Honors, USD Strength Athlete of the Month, Marcia West Legro award for scholar-athletes
"As a captain of the swim team I learned a lot about leading other people, committing fully and completely to an endeavor, managing time, and working with people who are very different than me toward a common goal."
That's quite a list! It sounds like you would have been accepted with open arms at any university in the nation. What made USD your top choice?
I loved USD's small size, because I knew that meant I would be able to enjoy small classes and personal relationships with professors. USD's broad range of academic programs and the liberal arts emphasis meant that I had a lot of options and flexibility, which was important as an incoming freshman with no clear sense of what to study. USD's location in a fun, exciting, and interesting city and the beauty of the campus were selling points.
One of the most important factors was the swim team. It is a small team, and I felt a true family dynamic among the swimmers and coaches: I knew that my contributions would be felt and that I could be a part of the swimming family within the larger USD community.
"I loved USD's small size, because I knew that meant I would be able to enjoy small classes and personal relationships with professors."
Did you enjoy your time in USD's Honors Program?
The honors program pushed me outside of my academic comfort zone. Some of my hardest and most thought-provoking classes were honors courses, and writing an honors thesis (including conducting original research for the project) proved to be a demanding addition to regular coursework. The honors program gave me the opportunity to take courses outside of my majors and engage in academic debate and inquiry on topics that I would not have explored otherwise. Also, the honors professors were some of the most interesting I have had at USD, and the honors students were eager and motivated, which meant that classes were full of great discussions.
Why is a liberal arts education important?
A liberal arts education is important because it provides holistic development, not just knowledge about one particular content area. You learn to be adaptable, think on your feet and apply your strengths and knowledge in a variety of contexts. With the critical thinking skills and global competency you gain from a liberal arts education, you can be truly prepared to make a difference in the world.
How has your participation on the swim team affected you as a student?
Some of the most important lessons I have learned at USD have been because of my participation in athletics. As a captain of the swim team I learned a lot about leading other people, committing fully and completely to an endeavor, managing time, and working with people who are very different than me toward a common goal. I have made my best friends and had my best memories at USD with the swim team. I have also realized that sometimes the thing you love most can cause you the most pain and frustration, but the difficult moments allow you to fully appreciate the wonderful and fulfilling moments that are sure to follow.
Being a member of the swim team also allowed me the opportunity to get involved with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, where I've felt like I have had a direct and meaningful impact on student-athletes at the institutional and conference level as well as in the local community.
What are your plans for the future?
For the next two years I will be teaching elementary education or Spanish at an elementary school in St. Louis as a Teach for America corps member. After my time teaching I'd like to go to graduate school for communication studies.
- Anne Malinoski ‘11