A Well-Rounded Student Experience with Athletics at its Core
Tara Carcillo ’98, Rowing
Tara Carcillo ’98 possesses an athlete’s mindset. It’s not about winning versus losing. It’s about the skills that lead to success. Focus, resilience, grit—the same qualities that make a strong leader. It’s a mindset she possessed at an early age, Carcillo says, and it has carried her to her role as CEO of The Clearing, a Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm.
“I set the first goal of my life in middle school,” she says. “I was going to play basketball in college. It was a dream I wanted to chase. I was tall at a young age. Basketball allowed me to be physical without feeling weird. I’m an introvert, and it gave me joy, confidence, and something to talk about.”
The sport led her to Washington College, where as a freshman she would join the new women’s team in its second year of competition, as well as the rowing team. When the basketball experience did not live up to her dreams, she decided to leave the team before her sophomore year to focus on other opportunities.
Walking away from basketball gave Carcillo time for other experiences. She was a student mentor, played bass in a band, and became part of the student leadership program.
“I had attended several workshops with Dennis Berry, who ran the leadership team,” she says. “He noticed I wasn’t playing basketball and invited me to run the student workshops. I felt seen.”
Carcillo credits the opportunity to be many things at Washington with her success, life balance, and resilience during challenging personal moments, including the tragic death of Berry, who had become a mentor.
The ability and encouragement to be many things at Washington prepared Carcillo for the many things she would be as adult: athlete, professional, mother. But she also gained a great deal from one specific identity at Washington, a member of the crew team. Her rowing career would continue all four years, and she’d stay after graduation as an assistant coach.
“As a rower, I learned a lot of grit, how to push through things that were scary,” she says. “I found my best, lifelong friends through rowing, going through hard things together and getting to the other side.”
It was an era of increasing prominence for Washington’s rowing program, with men’s coach Mike Davenport shifting to the women’s team.
While an assistant coaching the rowing team, Carcillo earned a master’s degree in organizational systems renewal that, combined with her athletic experiences, has served as the basis for her career.
“When I am assembling teams in the business environment, I think the same way I did as a rowing coach,” she says. “How do these people connect, how will they row, or work, together? Sometimes it should all work on paper, but in the boat it doesn’t. Are you getting in the way of each other or helping each other?”