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Stephanie Skelly '12 works alongside Assistant Biology Professor Jason Duncan in the lab.Stephanie Skelly '12 works alongside Assistant Biology Professor Jason Duncan in the lab.

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Academic All-American excels in the classroom and on the soccer field

Sports and academics hold equal importance for Stephanie Skelly ’12, which is why she didn’t hesitate to enroll at Willamette University four years ago.

“I feel so comfortable and at home here,” she says. “I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had at Willamette, opportunities I wouldn’t have had by attending another university.”

Striving for Excellence

Skelly has made her mark in the classroom and on the soccer field while at Willamette. A biology major, she’s maintaining a 3.9 grade point average and is intent on pursuing a career in either clinical or research genetics.

This fall, the midfielder was named Offensive Player of the Year within the Northwest Conference and First Team Capital One Academic All-America for NCAA Division III. Only 12 players across the country were chosen for the latter honor, based on their athletic and scholastic prowess.

“Being named an Academic All-American came as a real shock to me,” Skelly says, adding the announcement was mutually exciting and humbling. “It’s a very big honor, not only for me, but for my team. We all work together, day in and day out, and any awards I receive are a reflection of that.”

To Willamette Head Coach Hillary Arthur, Skelly is a person who consistently puts her team first. She brings a tremendous amount of integrity and pride to her sport, and she values hard work, respect and loyalty.

“Stephanie is one of the most talented players I have had the privilege of coaching. It has been so rewarding watching her develop and grow into an outstanding athlete, student and person,” Arthur says. “Stephanie is the total package. She leaves a great legacy behind, and has set a new standard for Bearcat Soccer.”

Jason Duncan agrees. An assistant biology professor, Duncan describes Skelly as highly motivated and extremely intelligent. She has twice received the Martha Springer scholarship for her leadership and success in the biology field, and she’s worked in Duncan’s lab through Willamette’s Science Collaborative Research Program.

The summer program is made available to select undergraduates, giving them the opportunity to work directly with faculty on science research projects. For her work, Skelly studied genetic mutations in fruit flies and attempted to learn why and in which genes the anomalies occurred.

“I’ve always had a love for genetics,” Skelly says. “It’s so interesting how tiny gene mutations can have such a big impact.”

Self Discovery

During their time together, Duncan says he and Skelly have discussed stem cell research and her interest in human genetic research. He says he’s constantly amazed by her level of insight, her innate charm and her empathy for others.

“She displays a level of maturity and clarity in thought not often found in someone of her age,” Duncan says. “What is truly admirable is how she seamlessly integrates her academic success with her pursuit of excellence in athletics. Stephanie works tirelessly at both.”

By attending Willamette, Skelly says she was able to challenge herself and discover her true potential. Duncan helped ignite her love for genetics, and Arthur helped guide her talent on the field. Willamette’s commitment to student excellence made all this possible, she says.

“Sports and education are so important to me,” Skelly says. “There’s a great community here at Willamette, and I feel so lucky to be a part of that.”