As an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, Claire Carver-Dias divided her time between two places—the classroom and the pool. The English major from Burlington, Ontario was attracted to the small campus size at UTM, but there was another draw for the internationally-recognized synchronized swimmer with dreams of Olympic gold. Her chosen campus was a just short commute to her Etobiocoke-based swim club and training coach. The proximity between her two interests allowed Carver-Dias to continue her training while pursuing her other passion for language and communication.
“I loved what I did, even though there were days when I was exhausted,” said Carver-Dias, who spent up to 48 hours in the pool in a given week while juggling classes and study sessions “It set me up for real life. It was important to me to make the most of the time spent doing whatever I was doing.”
Carver-Dias, who has won medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, 1999 PanAm Games and a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney Australia, says many of her favourite memories of UTM are of her English classes. She recalls one particular favourite—a course where she was part of a class of just seven students. The small group fostered a lively and intimate learning environment, and encouraged in-depth conversations about literature that, to Carver-Dias, felt like being within “a trusted circle of academics.”
“U of T was a big university with a big name but UTM offered an intimate setting,” says Carver-Dias. “It pushed me to excel academically. I believe that you bring all the learning from previous experiences into current experiences.”
Carver-Dias now puts her skills to work as a communications consultant and executive coach for business leaders. She continues to be involved in sport as past president of AlthetesCAN and sat on the board of directors for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“I take a lot of learning from my sport life and I apply that to my work life as well. In an athletic setting you learn how to set goals effectively. It’s taken for granted. As an athlete, you have clear objectives, and you have a training plan, and day after day you work towards your objectives in a focused and disciplined manner. There’s very little wasted time and energy,” she says.
Carver-Dias' love of literature also remains a constant. In 2013, she won a Mississauga Literary Arts award for her first novel, "The Games." Working now on a sequel, Carver-Dias also plans to publish a business book which will draw upon her own experiences to examine how best practices from the world of athletics are applicable in a corporate environment. “When you apply certain disciplines and practices from the sports world in a corporate context, you see an increase in productivity and improved results,” she says.
Carver-Dias credits her achievements to a strong support system in her personal, professional and academic life.
“I see this as a theme in my life. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced success in a few different areas of my life largely because of the many supportive, honest and positive people that surround me,” she said. “I found that at U of T, as well. It really felt that way.”
Register online to hear Claire speak at Backpack to Briefcase: Own the podium.
Author: Larissa Ho, Communications Intern, Alumni Relations, University of Toronto Mississauga, 2014
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