Lead Her Forward: National Women in Sports Day Celebrates 50 Years of Title IX at Bates


Five Bates alumnae sat down and discussed their thoughts and experiences as women in athletics.

On Wednesday, Feb. 2, Bates Athletics hosted an alumnae panel in honor of Women in Sports Day. The department invited a group of former female athletes with the focus of celebrating 50 years of Title IX at Bates; the Bobcats discussed their respective experiences with gender in sports.

The panel was moderated by Amanda Kaufman, senior captain of the Bates track and field team. As a gender and sexualities studies major, Kaufman has always been interested in athletic inclusivity and empowerment. Combining this with her love for athletics, there are few people better suited to lead such a panel.

Kaufman conferred with five distinguished Bates alumnae who have made significant headway in the world of women’s athletics. A brief summary of their work can be found below:

Katie Burke ‘03 was a Bates volleyball defensive specialist as well as the captain of the team. Since her time at Bates, she has continued to write essays on the role athletics can play in girls’ lives, which can be read on her website. Burke has gone on to become the Chief People Officer at Hubspot. In 2019, she was named Bates’ Distinguished Alumni in Residence and won the Stangle Award for Distinguished Service.

Vantiel Elizabeth Duncan ‘10 is a three-time NESCAC champion in the shot put and six-time NCAA All American. Additionally, in 2010, she was voted Bates’s Best Female Athlete of the Year. In her senior year, Duncan extended her passion beyond the realm of the Bates track and field team with the creation of the Bates Throwing Clinic. Through the clinic, a group of ranked Maine throwers worked to train rural middle and high schoolers throughout the state. Duncan graduated from Bates with a politics major and continued on to work for some of the world’s largest NGOs.

Nancy Ingersoll Fiddler ‘78, a 14-time U.S. national nordic ski champion, tells a tale of strength. Fiddler was a pioneer in her time at Bates as a crucial contributing member of all four teams she was a part of and the college’s first-ever All-American female. She was also the founding member of the women’s cross country club, which quickly became the varsity team that we know today. But Fiddler’s success story certainly does not stop there. She continued to represent team USA twice on the Nordic team in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. Fiddler has also documented her athletic journey alongside a group of women in the writing of “Trail to Gold: The Journey of 53 Women Skiers.” 

Caroline Campbell-McGovern ‘83 captained both the field hockey and lacrosse teams and was the college’s first All-American in women’s lacrosse. Campbell-McGovern has dedicated her time to enhancing the experience of college athletes as the deputy executive director of the Ivy League Administration. Campbell-McGovern oversees just about every aspect of the athletic program, including student health, recruiting and financial aid. 

Amelia Wilhelm ‘18 assisted the women’s rowing team in winning three NCAA championships over the course of her four years. Not only was Wilhelm a three-time member of the NESCAC All-Academic team and a four-year dean’s list student, but she was also one of the nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Wilhelm graduated with honors in chemistry and received the Mary Brushwein Award from the department. Now, she is studying at the University of Washington in the Medical Scientist Training Program as she works toward getting her M.D. and Ph.D.

Acknowledging the impressive and wide repertoire of these women, Kaufman asked the panel a series of questions about their experiences both as women and athletes. The group defined and discussed Title IX in the context of collegiate athletics, agreeing on the fact that it offered the very benefits that women have long been asking for. 

Since these women spanned 50 years of graduation time, they all felt the effects of the passage of Title IX differently. Fiddler was in high school when the law was passed in 1972, and noted that she did not feel heavily affected by its introduction. She continued to explain that she had always felt she had the same skill set as men, but that her voice was not heard as much.

The panel was in consensus that resilience is crucial for a woman in sports, as some amount of adversity is inevitable. As Duncan put it, “resilience is key in flexibility,” and these women exhibited this wholeheartedly.

When Kaufman asked for advice for young women in athletics, the panel all mentioned one thing: the fight.

Acknowledging the grueling effort that athletics can sometimes have, they encouraged athletes to demand respect, demand equality and demand trust from themselves. As Campbell-McGovern remarked, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you ask for, what you fight for and what you work for.” This mentality manifested in the way that all of the athletes described their experiences.

Wilhelm referenced the impact that a team’s dynamic can have on an athlete’s work ethic. She explained that when you consider yourself as a unit within a team, you work not only to make yourself better but everyone around you better as well. This selfless passion illustrates itself in the way that teams practice camaraderie. 

With this, the athletes discussed the importance of a strong support system and mentorship. Campbell-McGovern mentioned the value of female mentorship on female athletes, as well as the internalized male preference that many women hold when it comes to mentoring because of preconceived experiences. However, the women all agreed on the impact female guidance has had on their careers.

Through the panel, each of these athletes made it clear that their work ethic, community and love for sports are what have allowed them to all thrive in their respective fields. The group went into the panel with the goal of inspiring young women both in and out of athletics, and they were able to do just that.

This panel was wonderfully run, informative, and empowering. The group was able to highlight the multitude of positive impacts that sport has had on them all while also acknowledging the struggle that it took. Regardless of skill level and gender identity, all athletes can learn from a tale of overcoming adversity. The panel can be watched in its entirety on the Bates Athletics YouTube.