Jaimie McFarlin is a leader, motivator and NCAA national champion.
And the master’s of business administration degree she’ll get from Olin Business School May 21 is just another in a long list of honors and accolades McFarlin has achieved in five years at Washington University — including helping the women’s basketball team win its fifth national title.
McFarlin, a native of Monroe, N.Y., first visited the Danforth Campus as candidate for a John B. Ervin undergraduate scholarship.
Enthusiastic about her scholarship opportunity and the chance to play for a perennial national power sealed it for McFarlin.
Once she was on campus, she quickly evolved into a leader.
“Playing basketball was the single biggest point of impact on my college life,” McFarlin says. “The communication and leadership skills, the ability to give and receive correction, those things go beyond what a student who is not an athlete would experience in college.”
By the time she was a junior, McFarlin began the first of three seasons she would serve as a team captain. But that year was cut short by a knee injury suffered seven games into the season.
As fate would have it, the injury occurred one day after submitting her application to the Olin Business School’s dual degree program, a decision that allowed her to take advantage of an additional year of athletic eligibility.
“Even though I was hurt, I still went to all the practices and traveled with the team, probably accomplishing more than I would have if I had been playing,” McFarlin says. “That season served as a great building block toward eventually winning a national title.”
Following an operation that winter, McFarlin began her arduous rehabilitation program, spending the summer in St. Louis and working for Thompson Coburn LLP as a litigation clerk in addition to working out in the gym.
The 2008-09 season ended in heartbreak once again, as Washington University lost in the national championship game for the second time in McFarlin’s career.
Already returning to WUSTL for a fifth year to complete the MBA requirements, McFarlin decided to use her extra season of basketball eligibility.
It was a good decision, as the women’s basketball team finished 29-2 and won the program’s fifth national championship March 20. McFarlin played throughout the postseason with the fire and exuberance she displayed before her knee injury, and, in the process, earned NCAA championship tournament most outstanding player honors.
The time on and off the court with teammates proved to be the most fulfilling element of McFarlin’s WUSTL experience. She also managed to parlay her role as a team captain into a more dynamic experience as a student.
Among the community service projects McFarlin helped spearhead include working with Kaboom! to build a playground in Pagedale, Mo.; volunteering to participate in Walk MS with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; tutoring at Lift 4 Life Gym in downtown St. Louis; and working with Beyond Housing to paint houses in north St. Louis.
“Playing basketball was so time-consuming,” McFarlin says, “that I really worked at bridging that gap between athletics and the things I wanted to do but could not necessarily find the time for.”
Tackling an issue with profound personal meaning, McFarlin found a way to merge basketball and community service. Having lived through her older brother Justin’s Middle East deployment, she created the Assists For Soldiers campaign that raised money to send care packages to U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Jaimie is someone willing to initiate action and follow through, no matter what the task,” women’s basketball coach Nancy Fahey says. “That is one of the legacies that she will leave behind with our program.”
McFarlin will spend next year playing basketball overseas or coaching and then plans on going to law school before pursuing a career in athletics.
“Basketball complemented the Washington University experience, which includes aspiring for excellence, working hard, prioritizing and time management,” McFarlin says. “Washington U. builds great students, but I think the leadership ability really comes from being a student-athlete.”