2021-22 NCAA Winter Postgraduate Scholarship Recipients
Phenomenal people are known to come from Gators athletics. Autumn Finke and Tori Bindi are good examples of this. The two former swimmers were both awarded $10,000 in postdoctoral fellowships from the NCAA.
The NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Program honors 126 collegiate athletes each year. The selections go to student-athletes who stand out athletically and academically, while demonstrating active involvement in their communities. This announcement brings the number of Gators receiving NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships since 1969 to 59. The scholarships will assist Finke and Bindi in their pursuit of higher education.
For Finke, the scholarship goes to law school. She recently completed her first of three years at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. However, Finke did not always know that she wanted to study law. Originally, she planned to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
“My mom is actually a teacher. And growing up, I wanted to be a teacher. And then I got more interested in the laws and policies around the education system here in America. And that kind of just led me to the law.”
In 2017, Finke graduated cum laude from Florida with a bachelor’s degree in English. During her time as a Gator, Finke received many academic awards. She was named four times on the SEC Academic Honor Roll, received CSCAA Scholar All-American honors, and was named UF’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year at the 2015 Florida Letterman Awards (FLAs). She placed second in the 2017 SEC 1650 freestyle and qualified for that season’s NCAA championships in the 1650 and 500 freestyle.
Finke describes the work of a student-athlete as “very difficult”. She attributes her success in Florida to her family, teammates and coaches. She also believes her academic advisor Tim Aydt was a valuable member of her support group.
After graduating from college, Finke used her love of swimming to become an active member of her local community. She spent a few years setting up a youth swimming program in St. Petersburg, Florida. Finke enjoys giving back to her hometown and helps run the program in her own former club pool. Swimming is part of the Finke family as mom Jeanne swam in Ball State and sister Summer competed in Florida State. Her younger brother, Bobby, has just finished his final season with UF.
In addition to her community work, Finke has already gained professional legal experience. She is spending this summer as a judicial intern for the Honorable Patricia D. Barksdale in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Finke continues to shine academically, professionally and within her community, showing exactly what the Gators stand for.
For Bindi, the NCAA scholarship allows her to study at UF’s College of Medicine. She will return to Gainesville to begin classes this summer. Bindi’s passion for the medical field started at a very young age and grew significantly during high school.
“Early on I identified with science and things like that. But it was through high school and being able to have relationships with doctors that started my interest in medicine as a potential career. While I was swimming things started to come to me. upstairs and you have knee problems and back problems so you can work with pediatricians and doctors. They were people that I really looked up to.”
Bindi plans to become a surgeon one day. Her interest in working in the operating room started with her internship at UF Shands Surgical Center after her sophomore year. Bindi describes the experience as “life-changing”. She now looks to the female surgeons working at UF for guidance in the field.
In 2020 Bindi graduated cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. During her studies, she achieved a plethora of academic and athletic achievements. Bindi made the SEC All-Academic Honor Roll four times and was named a CSCAA Scholar All-America Second Team in 2018 and 2020. She also received the 2018 Anderson Scholar Award and received a $10,000 postdoctoral scholarship as the nominee for the 2020 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete honor. In the pool, Bindi competed in the SEC Championships for all four years and swam the third leg of the Gators 800 free relay at the 2019 NCAA Championships.
In addition, Bindi made a name for himself as a leader on campus. She chaired the Student Athlete Advisory Committee in 2020 and appeared at the SEC Leadership Conference in 2019. In her senior year, she was selected by the UF Alumni Association for the Outstanding Leader Award 2020. Overall, Bindi was a phenomenal student, athlete, and leader throughout her undergraduate studies.
In her two years after graduating, Bindi has gained a lot of practical experience for her medical career. She worked full-time at the McKnight Brain Institute at UF under the supervision of Dr. David Fuller. While working, Bindi conducted research on cervical spinal cord injury and the effects of neural respiratory rehabilitation. She appreciates working with Dr. Fuller and the experience he taught her in his lab. In addition, Bindi was able to study treatments for Pompe disease using viral technology. Her research was even published in The Journal of Neurophysiology in the fall of 2021.
Returning to UF for medical school was an easy choice for Bindi. She believes Florida offers the unique opportunity for both academic success and a national championship experience. In addition, Bindi appreciates the teachers, professors and academic advisors she has met over the years. “I have nothing but good things to say about the support they’ve given me,” explains Bindi, “They let me do what I had to do to excel.”
Bindi proudly returns to Florida with the support system that has shaped her into the woman she is today.