Tyler Walker, ’08
Geography and international studies dual major
Grafton County, N.H.
Although it might not be apparent at first glance, my life has been about opportunities, not limitations. I was born with a congenital disorder that left me with an underdeveloped spine and nonfunctional legs. My legs were amputated when I was four, and for everyday activities, I use a wheelchair to get around. But I don’t consider myself disabled—I’m only disabled if I let someone else make me feel that way. What I do consider myself is an elite athlete, a disciplined student, and a traveler who has seen more of the world than most people ever dream of.
Growing up in Franconia, 10 minutes from Cannon Mountain, skiing was always part of my consciousness. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t ski, and fortunately, my parents were willing to see things my way. I started with a modified snowboard, then a bi-ski, and by the time I was 13 competed in my first national competition on a monoski, the same type of equipment I use today.
When I started at UNH, I was planning to study mechanical engineering but quickly realized I was going to have to choose between studying and competing as part of the United States Adaptive Ski Team. I took time off from UNH in both my freshman and sophomore years to compete in the X-Games, the World Cup, and the Paralympic Games. Last May, I graduated with a dual major in geography and international studies, as well as minors in both German and political science. I did it all in four years, and I’m pretty proud of that.
At UNH, I tried to take advantage of every opportunity. I was very involved with Northeast Passage, a UNH-based program that recreational adaptive sports to people throughout New England. I canoed and kayaked, scuba dived, rock climbed, hand cycled, and got around by skateboard as often as possible. In 2007, I did a summer study abroad program in Lunaberg, Germany. Though I’m finished with my undergraduate degree, I wouldn’t say that means I’m finished with my education. I definitely see grad school in my future. A UNH education is a doorway into many other opportunities. I can take what I learned there and do anything I want.