Making the Grade - Caitlin O'Neil

Q&A with Carla Zighelboim, Director of Athletic Communications

Feb. 3, 2004

What is the hardest thing about being a student and an athlete at Penn?
I feel that the most difficult aspect of being a student-athlete at Penn is balancing athletic responsibilities with academic and social obligations. All three aspects are important in any student-athlete's collegiate experience, but prioritizing them is often difficult.

What do you think is the best trait that you have learned since you've been a student-athlete here at Penn?
Along the same lines as the question above, I have learned to manage my time effectively. I think learning to juggle various responsibilities is a skill that will serve me well both in college and in the future.

Also, I have further developed my skills as a team player. Although squash is an individual sport, teamwork is still very important. In fact, I would argue that a strong sense of team is just as imperative in squash as in other team sports. One must always keep in mind that her solitary performance could win or lose an entire competition. Personal performance is important, but it takes five individual matches to win a competition.

Favorite book and why?
I think my favorite book of all time, though I read it in seventh grade, is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book is important to me because it taught me how to think analytically about literature. There are so many messages that the book delivers. Any book that makes me think or that evokes emotions is a good book in my opinion. I also am currently reading the autobiography of Katharine Graham. She was a fascinating woman with a tremendous amount of strength and intelligence.

Favorite class and why?
There have been so many great classes that I could not pick just one. I really loved Intermediate Microeconomics with Professor Nocke as well as Intermediate Macroeconomics with Professor Villa-Verde. The Wharton Statistics series (101/102) was phenomenal as well. In my political science major, I have enjoyed Intro to American Politics with Professor Dilulio as well as The American Presidency with Professor Gottschalk.

These classes all challenged me in different ways. The economics classes challenged me to integrate quantitative skills with more abstract models. Stat challenged me in a more strictly quantitative sense, although applying it to business theory made it interesting. The political science classes challenged me to understand the underlying structures and theories of our government system.

What did you do during the summer of 2003?
I worked at Goldman Sachs & Co. in the Stock Plan Group. It was a really great experience and I learned quite a bit. (For next summer), my goal is to get an internship doing investment banking at some firm, hopefully Goldman Sachs & Co.

What's your outlook for the 2003-04 season, personal and team?
The women's squash team looks incredibly strong this season. Our competition is formidable, but we have a very deep ladder with a few very strong freshmen. I truly believe that we have the potential to upset some of the teams that were ranked above us in the pre-season rankings. Personally, I hope to work hard and move up the ladder a bit by the end of the season. I started playing squash as a sophomore at Choate Rosemary Hall. I was originally a tennis player, but Choate had a great program and I began to concentrate my efforts on squash. However, there are still many things that I need to work on to become as fully accomplished as some of my collegiate competitors and teammates.

What's your favorite part of being a student-athlete and why?
I am a very active and athletic person. The three hours or so that I spend playing squash is a block of time where I don't have to think about anything else. It is a nice release from all the other stresses from school. I also simply enjoy being in a team-environment.

There are other benefits as well. Aside from the respect that people give you, there are many terrific programs for Penn athletes offered by the Athletic Department in terms of academic support, career counseling, and many other things. I currently work as a tutor in statistics and economics for the Athletic Department, and I have really enjoyed the experience. I know what it's like to be a student-athlete, so I feel that I can help other student-athletes not just with the subject material, but also how to balance their time and make the most efficient use of their time.