By Doug Drabik, Cal Athletic Communications
Scott Farley, like many people around the world, finds inspiration within his family, and the guidance he has received from his parents has helped mold the recent Cal graduate into a leader with boundless enthusiasm for making a difference in everyday life.
An honors student in the classroom with a 3.81 grade-point-average and a swimmer for the Golden Bears, Farley completed his degree in geography this past May. He received the prestigious Neufeld Scholar-Athlete Award for the highest grade-point-average among male senior student-athletes.
“My parents are my role models,” Farley said. “They are the best at what they do and I want to be the best at what I do.”
The academic interest Ken and Kristen Farley instilled in their son comes from their career paths – Ken is a division chair at Cal Tech, while Kristen is on the faculty at Pasadena City College.
When he arrived in Berkeley in the fall of 2010, Farley had an interest in the environment and chose geography for its mix of science, social science, economics and earth science. Cal head men’s swimming & diving coach David Durden soon took notice of Farley’s hard work and positive character.
“You want to see student-athletes mature from their freshman to their senior year, and that can happen in many different ways,” Durden said. “In Scott’s case, he came in as a very bright student and continued to learn and experience the Cal culture. Scott not only found things that he was passionate about and wanted to invest his time in, but he shared the excitement with others around him.”
Durden harnessed Farley’s passion by appointing him the squad’s academic leader and tasked with developing a study program that would put the team in the best position to succeed in the classroom.
“If you have a great swimmer, you want that person in your dynamic because they are going to inspire others and enhance the training environment,” Durden said. “We oftentimes fail to appreciate the academic piece of that, which is equally as important. Scott was the brainchild of our structured study program. We brought the brightest minds together to infuse that confidence and mentorship to the rest of the group.”
Farley organized study sessions for the team that gave his fellow student-athletes the choice to work in a group study hall setting or meet individually with a professor or a tutor. The time commitment was based on an individual’s GPA.
“Dave really got behind me and empowered me to take charge in this role to help each individual understand he has to put in the work to achieve his goals,” Farley said.
Farley and his teammates showed tremendous progress in the academic arena and, thanks to the positive feedback, Durden plans to expand the program in coming years.
With his collegiate career over, Farley plans to apply his geography degree, using his experience growing up in southern California toward making a difference in the environment.
“I am starting a non-profit to model wildfire behavior in real time,” Farley explained. “It is going to be an app that users can access and key-in different mathematical variables to help model how quickly and how wide a wildfire will burn in a specific area. Growing up in Pasadena, I would walk outside and see the entire hillside on fire. It was tough to experience.”
Through Farley’s work with studying Geographical Information Systems at Cal, he has learned the best principles in applying computer mapping. The model will include weather records in real time and determine how fast a wildfire will spread and how hot it will burn. The idea is to provide valuable information for firefighters and residents in danger areas.
“I have worked with these models in my honors thesis and I have made a big improvement on how easy they are to use,” Farley said. “But we have a ways to go before residents will be able to better protect their surroundings.”
Farley one day hopes to share his experiences in an academic setting as a professor, following in the footsteps of his parents.
“This is the culmination of so many great things and the start of a lot of other great things,” Farley said. “I am really
excited for what happens next.”