June 2002 [oberlin online]
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Walker Ends Career on Athletic and Academic Highs
Top Field-Hockey Player Admitted to Oxford University
by Anne C. Paine

Pamela Walker '02 epitomizes the best in Oberlin's tradition of scholar-athletes.
An All-American and all-conference field-hockey player, she's the best Division III goalkeeper in the country this year. She's also an honors psychology major heading for the doctoral-degree program in experimental psychology at Oxford University next fall, provided she can secure funding.

Photo courtesy of Sports Information Office

Walker - who attends Oberlin with the assistance of a John Heisman Club Leadership Scholarship and a John Frederick Oberlin Academic Scholarship - spent two semesters at Oxford last year. Since then, she's been in telephone contact with the eminent social psychologist Miles Hewstone, who is interested in her current research and her ideas for graduate research.

Walker is doing honors research with Associate Professor James Tanaka; her project examines interracial experience as a factor in facial perception. She and Tanaka presented their findings at the Perceptual Expertise Network conference in San Francisco last April.
"Our study shows that on a very basic level, we tend to perceive differences in faces of our own race more easily than we do in other races," said Walker, who has a second major in law and society and a minor in religion.

Once she enrolls at Oxford, Walker hopes to keep her connection to Oberlin strong by helping establish research connections between the two institutions. Both Tanaka and Hewstone have expressed interest, she said.

As she has done since high school, Walker combined academics and athletics, playing on four different Oxford field-hockey teams. Before coming to Oberlin, she played on her high-school team in Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as on the British Columbia Provincial team, which won several medals in Canadian national championships. She completed the Oberlin field-hockey season last fall with a save percentage of .938; her career save percentage was .874 and her career goal against average was 1.41.

She expects to continue playing at Oxford next fall.

"I've been playing for so long, I don't see myself as being able to stop," she said. "I have such a respect for the game. Some of the skills take years to learn. I love the competition, I love that it's not a high-scoring game. I like to win. I like to be a part of a team - it's very rewarding," she said.

Walker credits Oberlin's tough academics with helping her gain entry to Oxford, but as a high-school senior she hadn't ever heard of the College.

"I was looking at U.S. schools for field hockey - mostly the Ivy League schools," she said. Oberlin's field-hockey coach started making weekly calls to her, and the persistence paid off: Walker decided to apply.

The academic experience at Oberlin has "far exceeded my expectations," Walker said. "The feedback here is terrific - in my freshman year, on every paper, the professors wrote notes and comments. The professors really care. And the research opportunities have been wonderful. Many classes I have taken have been very demanding, but that pushed me to succeed."

Though already an accomplished athlete when she arrived, Walker said Oberlin taught her a few things about athletics, too.

"Playing on a Division III team, I've learned about sportsmanship and the importance of working as a team member. I've been on many teams, but none has been so cohesive as Oberlin's. Until I came to Oberlin, I never turned to my teammates for help or support. I've learned that a team is a team on the field and off as well."

Oberlin also has had a huge impact on her personal development, Walker said. "Oberlin changed my life," she said. "I came from a very conservative high school. I'm not radical at all, but I've become more liberal. I've learned not to be prejudiced against anyone for unfounded reasons. I've become a more open-minded person.

"Americans are very different from Canadians," she continued. "Americans have opinions about everything. I've learned that it's good to have an opinion, to develop and express your opinions. This has helped me grow as a person."

Walker spent spring semester preparing for graduation and applying for every scholarship she could find to help her pay for Oxford. "My professors keep telling me I have to find a way to make this happen," she said. "It's been my dream." ATS

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