Frances Dingivan didn't plan on rowing in college. However, when her high school athletic career ended, she found herself missing the team environment and decided to see if she could make rowing her new sport. After attending her first novice practice in the fall of her first year, she was hooked. She has been a pivotal member of the Blue crew team ever since, rowing at the stroke seat of the Varsity 8 boat.
Originally hesitant about attending a women's college, the Salt Lake City, Utah native quickly fell in love with the supportive community that Wellesley College has to offer both on campus and with the crew team on the water. In the classroom, Dingivan is a Spanish and Environmental Studies double major with the hopes of pursuing a career in environmental law. As she eagerly prepares for her third trip to the NCAA Rowing Championship, she took the time to speak with WellesleyBlue.com about her experiences as an Albright Fellow, a student at Wellesley College, and a member of the Blue crew team.
Why did you decide that Wellesley College was the right place for you to attend college?
At first I didn't want to even look at Wellesley because I had never considered that a historically all-women's college could be for me. Then my friends and family convinced me to visit. I was ultimately drawn to how an all-women's college provides a supportive environment in which young people can grow and explore in a way that they wouldn't be able to at traditional co-ed institutions. The beautiful campus didn't hurt either.
What made you decide to row for the Blue? Did you have any previous rowing experience?
I decided to walk on because I had played volleyball in high school and I really missed being on a team. I knew nothing about rowing (Utah isn't exactly a rowing hub given the general lack of water…). All I knew was that it was kind of hard and that it was the only sport on campus that had a team delegated to teaching people how to do it. I also told myself it couldn't be too hard if you sit down the whole time (that part was wrong). I showed up to the novice meeting during first year orientation and after the first practice I couldn't stop coming back.
This year will be the third time you will be going to the NCAA Division III rowing championship, what is that championship experience like? What did it feel like when your team earned an at-large bid this season?
The championship experience is very humbling. You're right there warming up and walking around with some of the premier young athletes in the rowing world, including future Olympians, who have all worked incredibly hard to get there. I actually think it was better that Blue Crew didn't earn the Automatic Qualifier from the NEWMAC this year. When we didn't get it, there was a moment in which you could feel the entire roster make a collective decision to get our 1V and 2V to NCAA's and we all dug our heels in and went into overdrive. I've never felt an energy like that before. We got faster and faster every week in each boat; everybody was pushing each other. We were ranked very low coming into the regular season and we finished the season ranked #2 in the country. I think as a collective, across the entire roster, we sent a strong message to the rowing world that we are not to be underestimated. When we won an at-large bid we were all overjoyed because we've all fought so hard for it.
As a member of the Blue Crew team you have experienced a lot of success, what have you learned from being part of a successful program? What is the most important lesson you have learned as a student-athlete at Wellesley?
I've learned that nobody can succeed alone, especially in this sport. There aren't any stars in rowing like there are in other sports like volleyball or basketball. The act of rowing itself is dependent on each athlete being in complete unison with their boatmates, down to the split second they put their blade in the water. I think that idea has transferred into my life as a student-athlete as well. I couldn't balance my academic, athletic, and personal demands unless I had people there to help me, be that coaches, deans, teammates, roommates, friends, etc. It simply would not be possible.
What do you like most about being a member of the Wellesley Crew team?
I've pushed myself mentally and physically in ways that I never thought I could (turns out rowing is hard even though you're sitting down the whole time). On a larger scale, I've found a community that has not only pushed me as an athlete and a student, but has also shown me an incredible level of kindness and acceptance.
How did you choose to double major in Spanish and Environmental Studies? What do you enjoy most about your majors?
I've grown up taking Spanish in school and I didn't want to stop once I got to college. Wellesley's Spanish department is full of professors who are really passionate about what they teach and I kept signing up for their classes. So it kind of turned it a major that way. I pursued a major in Environmental Studies because I am interested in a career in environmental law, especially because environmental policy has such an important impact on life in Utah, where I'm from.
You were selected for the 2019 Albright Institute Fellowship, can you tell me a little bit about what the Albright Institute is? What was that experience like?
The Albright Institute was founded by Madeleine Albright with the purpose of encouraging students to consider the complexity of global issues and to use a multidisciplinary approach to address them. During wintersession, the other Fellows and I attended seminars in which experts from a variety of fields, such as computer science, law, and psychology among others, spoke about issues that affect the world today. We also worked on small group projects that focused on current global issues that we then presented to former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. I was really intimidated at first— the other students in my cohort are incredibly smart and driven— but I soon found that I could learn a lot from them and it was ultimately a really engaging experience.
What are your goals for after Wellesley?
I don't have any concrete goals right now. I am interested in attending law school within the next few years, but I don't think it's time for that yet. I'm looking to pursue a career that focuses on environmental justice, but I'm still figuring out what that looks like.
How have you been able to successfully balance your school work and early morning practices?
I think crew has made me better at managing my time than I would have if I wasn't on a team. I have to be in bed with the lights out at 8:30 every night, so I can't procrastinate. It forces me to communicate with my coaches and professors and to plan out my assignments so I can make sure I get all of my work done well.
Other than rowing what do you love most about Wellesley College?
I think the other students. I've seen a lot of instances in which students have uplifted and supported their sibs in powerful ways. It takes many forms; sometimes it's through student organizing and protests and sometimes it's a lot smaller, like dancing and cheering on a friend when they've achieved a personal goal of some sort. That's really impactful.
Wellesley Athletics strives for excellence at the conference, regional, and national levels, while providing opportunities for students to achieve their potential and learn the values of discipline, leadership, critical thinking, and responsibility to oneself and others.