First Person: The Opportunity Cost of Commitment


CQueenBy Caroline Queen ’14

One day not long into the fall semester, I found myself seated on bleachers listening to a man speak from the manicured lawn before me. I lifted my eyes from the podium and picked out the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Symbols of home, I thought, having grown up in the D.C. suburbs. But I had never beheld this particular view before, since I had never been inside the gates of the White House. The man before us was the President, and he, Vice President Biden, and Mrs. Obama were there to celebrate the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams.

There have been only a handful of times in my life when I have had to stop and think, How did I get here? By what path in time and space did I land here? As I listened to President and Mrs. Obama sing the praises of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams, it occurred to me, Oh yeah, I was part of that.

I was a member of the 2012 Olympic Team, representing the United States in the sport of slalom whitewater kayaking.

The number of times that I have had to remind myself of my Olympian status may be surprising. To begin with, I am not one to bring up any form of personal achievement on my own volition. But upon reflection, I think my time at Davidson has both enabled and encouraged me to pursue other interests that help define me. Yes, I am Caroline Queen, a 2012 Olympian from Maryland. But, I am also Caroline Queen the junior psychology major, Turner House member, tour guide, flickerball coach, club field hockey captain, The Davidsonian’s Webmaster, Wildcat Pride scanner, Cahoots networking team member, and volunteer for Dinner at Davidson, a benefit for The Davidson Trust.


Over the past three years I’ve worked to coordinate my athletic, academic, and extracurricular careers to complement each other. Sometimes one needs to take priority over the other. From Dr. Vikram Kumar’s Econ 101 class, I always think about balancing the two in terms of opportunity cost. Where is my time best spent today? Should I look over my notes from class or should I head to the gym? I’ve learned to manage the daily decisions, but when the time came for me to turn in my leave of absence form for last semester to the dean’s office, I hesitated. By leaving Davidson for a full semester, I committed to favor training over studying for five months straight.

Looking back, I know that my investment paid off. London provided me with the experience of a lifetime and gave me license to attach “Olympian” to my name for the rest of my life.

Yet without being at Davidson, I might very well have missed London. Especially in the time leading up to the Olympic trials at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, meeting Davidson friends for lunch, watching the NCAA tournament at Our Town Cinema, or just enjoying the atmosphere of our campus helped me decompress from training. Because I had such a strong support system of Davidson students, faculty, and staff on this journey, I feel that Davidson served as my co-investor.

By this logic, it only seems appropriate for Davidson to reap the rewards, too. Being invited to speak during Common Hour, to serve as an ice cream scooper at a Davidson-Cornelius Daycare fundraiser, and to speak with local kids—I can only hope to make as positive an impact on Davidson College and the surrounding community as it has on me.

In particular, I hope that I can help make the Davidson experience accessible to all deserving students through my work with The Davidson Trust. Although I am not a direct beneficiary of the Trust, I support Davidson’s commitment to building socio-economic diversity. I hope that by investing my time with the Trust, I will in some way co-invest in future achievers—maybe even more Olympians!

While I still question how I have been so fortunate to experience the Olympic Games and all of the accompanying gifts, I can say with confidence that Davidson helped pave my way. Thank you for being part of my team.


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