This week's row2k interview is with Yale senior Alice Henly. Henly has had a busy three and a half years since enrolling in New Haven; including winning two NCAA championships in the Varsity 8, as well as a win at the 2009 Henley Women's Regatta. This past December, she had the chance to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Denmark.
row2k - You came to the states from Australia, why did you decide on Yale for your undergraduate education?
Alice Henly - I am a dual American/Australian citizen and looked at a range of universities in both countries. I automatically fell in love with the residential college system and campus (which was unlike anything I'd seen back home in Melbourne). I was also excited to be part of one of the best rowing teams in the country. In the end, I chose Yale because I believe it offers the best combination of academics, women's rowing and other extracurricular opportunities. Who am I kidding, it was the Yale waffle makers that mold a Y into your waffle that clinched it for me.
row2k - You have had quite a bit of success so far winning two Varsity Eight NCAA Championships, what's been the highlight for you so far?
Alice Henly - The 2008 NCAA varsity eight final my sophomore year was unlike any other racing experience. We made an almost unimaginable comeback to take the national championship. We were coming third going into the last 500 meters. With all six boats still within a few seats the crowd was going wild, nearly drowning out our coxswain's voice. Time seemed to slow down. Our coxswain, Mia, made a final call and I could feel the hull lifting and could sense a surge of excitement in our boat as we started moving up on the field. By the last 100 meters we had passed Brown but were unaware of Stanford's exact position five lanes away - they were still ahead. With burning legs we pushed through the last few strokes and moved out on Stanford to win by a tenth of a second. I remember seeing Stanford's bowball cross the finish line buoy on the other side of the course just as I did (sitting in four seat of my boat) and I knew we had won.
row2k - Your team spent a couple weeks in England for Henley this past summer, how was that experience?
Alice Henly - Henley-on-Thames has the most beautiful stretch of water and most exciting racecourse I've ever rowed on. As we raced in both the Henley Women's Regatta and the Henley Royal Regatta, we spent an amazing three weeks in the small and picturesque town of Henley situated on the banks of the River Thames and were able to become fully immersed in the town culture and the ancient traditions of our sport.
I think our best race was the final of the Women's Regatta against the U23 British National Team. The very narrow two-lane racecourse lined with the characteristic Henley wooden posts and masses of exuberant people was starkly different from the comparatively placid dual meets during our regular season. In order to overcome the new conditions and defeat our opponent (who was favored to win) we tried to use the choppy water and tight racecourse to our advantage. We were determined to get an early lead on the British crew and put them in our wake while also trying to tune out the crowds on the bank and in spectator boats on either side of us. It was a fast race and the British U23 team broke the old course record (and went on to win the U23 World Championship). It just so happened that we managed to hold our lead off the start and win with an even faster time and set a new regatta course record of our own.
row2k - Why do you think your team has been so successful over that past few years?
Alice Henly - I think there are a few key factors that have made us so successful: hard work, great coaching and the best team atmosphere I've ever been a part of.
row2k - You recently spent some time in Copenhagen, Denmark attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference. How did that come about and what were you doing at the conference?
Alice Henly - I am a reporter for the Yale Wheel Undergraduate Sustainable Development Journal. I applied with two other undergraduate reporters to the Yale Climate and Energy Institute for funding to attend the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. I was awarded funding to attend the second week of the conference (I was in Copenhagen from the 13th - 18th of December) and to write a live blog from the conference as well as articles for the Wheel Journal upon returning in the Spring. Among the most exciting outcomes of the conference was organizing interviews with the Head of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri and Don Kanak, the Chairman of the World Wildlife Fund's Carbon Initiative.
As a member of the civil society (not part of an official country delegation), I had access to many events throughout the conference center. Each day the Bella conference center was bustling with people from 8 a.m. onward going to an incredible variety of events hosted in hundreds of meeting and lecture rooms. I spent my days going to expert panel talks, official meetings of the UN Ad Hoc Working Groups, and plenaries that were open to the public.
As a political science major concentrating in environmental politics and policy, I was ecstatic to be able to attend an international environmental conference and watch delegates debate the texts of new international environmental agreements. The highlights of the trip were hearing a number of exceptional people speak including: Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, Al Gore and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. It was also incredible to sit in the largest plenary room at the conference center behind hundreds of country delegates watching as they debated the text of the agreements knowing that it was likely that I would be studying parts of those same texts in future environmental law courses. Despite the ultimate failings of the overarching agreements, it was a remarkable opportunity to attend the second week of the historic conference alongside 105 world leaders while also learning more about my specific areas of interest including Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) forestry policy, U.S. renewable energy policy and carbon markets.
row2k - How is your training going for your senior season?
Alice Henly - Training is going really well. We're on track and can't wait to get back on the water.
row2k - Plans for after graduation?
Alice Henly - While I plan to continue on to law school to study environmental law, I hope to work for a couple years to gain practical policy experience. One area that I'm excited to work in is athletic sustainability. At the beginning of my senior year I was hired by the Yale Office of Sustainability to work with the Yale Athletics Department to make athletics more sustainable. I'm a member of a team of students and athletics department staff that has created the brand Bulldog Sustainability to represent the Yale Athletics Department's commitment to have a positive impact on the environment.
The Athletics Department is reconsidering internal operations, facilitating sustainable behaviors at all facilities and encouraging eco-friendly living within the Yale community. My specific role has been to report on the strategies and efforts of the Athletics department in order to create a model of Athletic Sustainability that the NCAA can provide to other university athletic departments. While I'm looking into wide range of environmental policy and law positions after graduating, athletics sustainability is one area that I'm interested in pursuing further because I believe that sports bring people together and can help impart common goals and values.