Carney Named Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship Winner

April 24, 2008

Courtesy: NCAA

Brenna Burns of Davidson College and Dylan Patrick Carney of Stanford University have been selected as recipients of the annual Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarships.

Burns, a cross country and track and field student-athlete, and Carney, a gymnastics student-athlete, were chosen from among six finalists by the NCAA Walter Byers Scholarship Committee.

The Byers Scholarships were established in 1988. The award recognizes the contributions of the former NCAA executive director and encourages academic achievement of student-athletes. Each award recipient will receive a $21,500 scholarship.

Recipients of the award must have a 3.5 grade-point average (4.0 scale), demonstrate evidence of superior character and leadership and show that participation in athletics has been a positive influence on their personal and intellectual development.

Burns, a psychology major, said the scholarship will play a crucial role in her goals for graduate school. 'When I heard the good news, I automatically thought of all the people who have helped me reach this point as a student-athlete,' she said. 'I hope they know how lucky I feel to have been blessed with their support throughout college.'

Burns intends, however, to pay those blessings forward. Since August 2006, she has been working with a 12-year-old boy with severe autism. In her application, Burns said the bond the two have established has led to her passion for understanding autism and the desire to dedicate her career to it. Currently on course to do just that, she will serve beginning in July as a residential teacher at the New England Center for Children, a nonprofit autism education center and the world's leading autism treatment center.

Burns also plans to pursue a doctorate in applied developmental psychology. Ultimately, she hopes to work with children in an autism treatment center while devoting time to research and developing pro bono programs to help low-income families manage the high expense of many autistic interventions.

As ambitious as Burns plans may seem, she believes her student-athlete experience has prepared her fully for the challenges ahead. 'The discipline and focus learned from athletics have benefited my work in the classroom as well,' she said. 'As a runner, I have been trained to push beyond comfort and test my limits, both physical and mental. This background gives me confidence to face the challenges that accompany work in the field of autism.'

Like Burns, Carney has his own high-ranging goals but remains undaunted by what the future holds.

'In gymnastics, it can be scary, you're flying through the air and you can hurt yourself. But, I've discovered that if you're scared of something, it's probably an indication that you should try it,' Carney said. 'Don't let potential failure stand in the way.'

Carney certainly hasn't. A member of the Stanford squad that recently finished second in the 2008 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships, he will attend medical school beginning in the fall with aspirations of one day improving global health concerns.

As part of his application, Carney said his experience with AIDS patients he met while participating in a three-week HIV/AIDS seminar in Cape Town, South Africa, reinforced his belief that aiding the poor through health care was where he would find the most satisfaction as a physician.

'It has been said that only about 10 percent of the world's medical research funds are spent on health problems that primarily affect the poorest 90 percent of the world's population. Understanding this and seeing its effects in Cape Town has given me direction,' Carney wrote.

The biological sciences major believes being a student-athlete has helped him pursue that goal.

'I don't think athletics has detracted from my academics at all,' said Carney, who noted that through intercollegiate athletics participation, he has sharpened critical life skills such as leadership, time management and how to deliver under pressure. 'Certainly sometimes it was tough, but it was definitely worth it. I've learned to be efficient with everything I do, in the gym and when studying.'

A Davidson cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field captain, Burns holds five school records and has been named to the All-Southern Conference team four times -- three in cross country and one in track. In addition to her record-setting performances, Burns, a psychology major, was named to the COSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team, Omicron Delta Kappa (National Leadership Society), and Psi Chi (National Honor Society in Psychology). Pursing a doctorate degree in developmental psychology, Burns has also been active on her campus and in the community. She is a member of Changing Minds, Davidson's mental health awareness club and has volunteered in many capacities -- as a tutor for Carolina Applied Behavior Analysis Service, an instructor for autistic children at a non-profit treatment center and a coach for Girls on the Run International.

A four-time NCAA All-American on the horizontal bar and vault, Carney led the Stanford men's gymnastics team to two consecutive third place finishes at the NCAA championships. He was the 2006 NCAA National Champion on the horizontal bar and awarded Stanford's 'Block S Award,' given to the most outstanding junior student-athlete in any sport. Excelling equally in the classroom, Carney is graduating from Stanford with a bachelor's degree and master's degree in biological sciences and will pursue a doctorate degree in medicine. Carney was a three-time NCAA Academic All-American and Rhodes Scholarship finalist. In addition to working in the molecular biology research lab and serving on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Carney is a patient intake volunteer at the Arbor Free Clinic and the co-chair of operations for the newly formed student organization, Project Mercury.

Last year's Byers Scholars were Katie Kingsbury, a tennis student-athlete from Washington & Lee University and Dane Todd, a football student-athlete from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.