by: Clara Belle Lefton '12 | Photo Gallery
SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (Apr. 9, 2012) - Katie Herrold '00 begins most days in Cairo, Egypt by swimming at the local masters club, where she enjoys continuing a sport she dedicated so much of her time as an undergraduate. This past winter, she helped the Gezira Sporting Club win the Championship Cup at the Masters National Championship, despite the fact that she's in the Middle East to conduct daily research for her Duke University PhD.
"Swimming for me has always been a way to relax," said Herrold. "I have some of my best thoughts in the pool, which is great now since I'm working toward my PhD. I don't know what I would do without swimming, quite frankly. Cairo is a very chaotic city. Swimming has allowed me to meet some of my best Egyptian friends."
While at Mount Holyoke, Herrold earned All-America honors, swam at the NCAA Division III National Championships and won the prestigious Massachusetts Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Achievement Award.
Herrold spent her first two years at the College swimming under the instruction of Cathy Buchanan. Current Head Coach Dave Allen took over the reins of the program in 1998.
"Katie is probably one of the most outstanding people you'll ever meet," said Allen. "She's just a good person across the board - very thoughtful and always in touch.
Herrold describes swimming as a major part of her identity at Mount Holyoke and says she had a difficult time adjusting when it ended. To fill the void and remain active, she took up triathlons while exploring her career options. The economics major bounced around from the corporate world to a think tank and became particularly interested in the field of philanthropy.
She began by looking primarily at privately endowed institutions that give money to NGO's. Her initial focus was on the west, but she eventually traveled to Europe to pursue two different masters programs - an MSc in social policy at the London School of Economics and an MBA from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. It was during this time abroad that Herrold allowed swimming to become a part of her world again.
"By the time I got to my senior year, I realized how much pressure I had put on myself," she said. "I still wanted it to be a part of my life, but I didn't want it to consume me like it did before. I started to just swim for fitness and for fun - a masters teams here and there and maybe a few competitions. But, I couldn't tell you what any of my times are anymore."
While once again enjoying herself in the pool, out of the water Herrold began questioning why philanthropy is celebrated, its advantages and disadvantages. Yearning to dive further into the topic, she applied to 10 schools and became part of Duke's first cohort of Public Policy PhD students. There, she became interested in liberalized autocracies and hybrid regimes in her political science classes.
Herrold discovered that these foundations were emerging in the Arab world and had been proliferating over the past decade. Once the Revolution happened, she thought studying the Middle East would be a great way to look at whether these foundations were responding and supporting democratic liberal reform.
"I didn't think that I could really address that from an American perspective, since philanthropy is so entrenched in our society, [and] we tend to think of it as a good thing, so I wanted to study it from an international perspective," she explained.
Since last May, Herrold has been living in Cairo full time. While there, she requests, conducts and reviews notes from her interviews, as well as stays up to date on new literature in her field.
Additionally, Herrold shared that one of the first things she did upon arriving was find a masters swim team located 10 minutes walking distance from her apartment.
After her team's most recent accomplishment, winning the Masters National Championships of Egypt, she is looking forward to May, when her team will take part in an invitational meet sponsored by Rotary International.
"The experience of competing with this team has been incredible," she said. "Though we come from different cultures, we have been able to form a bond through the sport that we all love."