This week's feature is with Stanford Junior Lightweight rower Sarah Hirshorn. Hirshorn learned to row from her grandfather, has started a community service project, and won the IRA in 2015.
row2k - You got your start in rowing at an early age, tell us about that? What's the rowing background in your family?
Sarah Hirshorn - My grandfather taught me to row when I was eight years old. I remember the very first time I went out in a single as wide as a bathtub during my family vacation in Texas. My grandfather is one of the most accomplished rowers I know. He has won 16 U.S. and Royal Canadian Henley national rowing championships, was an alternate for the 1959 Pan-American games and was part of the 1964 Committee on the 1964 Olympic Trials. He has also taught four of my five siblings so I really love that the sport is something that my family and I can share. This summer, my grandfather and I had the chance to compete at Master’s Nationals in the parent child event.
row2k - How did you end up at Stanford?
Sarah Hirshorn - While I have always loved the sport of rowing, I did not consider pursuing collegiate rowing until my sophomore year of high school. My incredible high school crew coach, Costel Mutescu, provided me with a challenging and enriching team experience where I was able to become a competitive candidate in the recruiting pool. Coach Mutescu represented Romania in the Olympics and had the knowledge and expertise to help me grow as a student athlete. Initially, I was planning on attending an east coast school in order to be closer to family but I fell in love with Stanford during my unofficial visit. My dad called the campus an Olympic training village and we both knew Stanford offers unparalleled opportunities for student-athletes, so the decision was easy.
row2k - You just spent the fall away from Stanford, how was that experience and how much rowing training were you able to get in?
Sarah Hirshorn - During the fall I had the opportunity to study in Washington D.C. as part of the Stanford in Washington Program. All of the students participated in full time internships during the day and took classes at night. I interned at the Case Foundation on their Social Innovation team. I initially learned about the Case Foundation when Jean Case came to speak at a class I had taken in the Stanford Business School on strategic philanthropy. My internship project explored ways to make entrepreneurship more accessible to women and minorities. Evenings entailed courses on Foreign Policy, Transatlantic Relations, and Economic Development. That left early mornings available for a variety of cardio classes offered at a gym close to my office. The stair master also provided me the chance to catch up on my reading! Now that I am back on campus, I am thoroughly enjoying being back on the water.
row2k - What are your plans for this summer?
Sarah Hirshorn - This summer, I will be in New York City working as an intern in rotational program that will cover venture capital, real estate and direct lending activities. I will also continue to train for the next season and support selected volunteer service activities. I look forward to spending time with my family.
row2k - Could you tell me a bit more about the team service program you founded?
Sarah Hirshorn - Freshman year, with support from Stanford and my team, I started a community service project called SWEEP (Stanford Women’s Educational Erging Program), that was inspired by a program that my younger sister and I founded when we were in high school. Once a week, my teammates and I teach disadvantaged youth from East Palo Alto how to use the rowing machine. Last spring, the youth were able to experience rowing out of our boathouse. Ultimately, I hope to expand this program to provide opportunities for these youth to be connected to mentors, join high school teams, and gain access to college scholarships. I feel incredibly grateful to Stanford and my teammates for sharing their time and resources with these children.
Hirshorn with SWEEP
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?
Sarah Hirshorn - I love the sport of rowing because it has taught me the importance of both individual resilience and collective collaboration. My teammates at Stanford are some of the most amazing women I know. Everyone works to foster a positive environment where we work our hardest to achieve common team goals. I also feel fortunate to receive constructive input and support from my incredible coaches Derek Byrnes and Bonnie Chilibeck. I cannot imagine a better way to spend my years at Stanford than on the lightweight rowing team.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why?
Sarah Hirshorn - Being on the lightweight women’s crew team has enabled me to experience both the trials of failure and the euphoria of success. For me, freshman year was a series of profiles of failure as I was unable to succeed at “seat racing”—a method whereby the coach strategically switches rowers to determine who best moves the boat. After a series of failures all year long, and not being selected to compete at IRAs that year, I looked for models of courage and perseverance for inspiration. I did not have to look far, as my maternal grandfather, a national and Canadian champion in his own right, still rows each day and competes year round, even by rowing in 19 rowing marathons well into his seventies.
Using his example, I was inspired my sophomore year to change my technique – with the happy result of being asked to stoke the lightweight four with coxswain to the gold at the May 2015 IRA National Championships in Princeton, New Jersey. Ultimately, I know that the commitment, resilience and perseverance that I have learned from crew will help me to face whatever the future may hold. I loved having my family cheering us on and my grandfather reports that he still enjoys watching the video footage of that memorable race.
row2k - What are you studying at Stanford and do you have any plans yet for after college?
Sarah Hirshorn - At Stanford, I am studying Public Policy with a self-designed concentration in Social Entrepreneurship —a combination that integrates my passions for business, innovation, and positive social impact. Half of my coursework entails economics and the other half considers topics within the realm of policy applications. After Stanford, I hope to work in a creative and entrepreneurial business environment. Since I grew up in a family that places with a strong emphasis on community service, I plan on looking for ways to give back no matter what industry I enter. I also plan on continuing to row at the master’s level after my Stanford experience.