To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling 50 Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These 50 women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The 24th alumna in our series is Dr. Carla Ainsworth ’95, a Seattle-based physician. Ainsworth majored in chemistry and history at Kenyon and was captain of the Ladies swim team. She went on to earn her medical doctorate at Washington University in St. Louis and obtained a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley. She is widely recognized as one of Kenyon’s greatest athletes, and later this month, Ainsworth will receive the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in recognition of her collegiate athletic and professional achievements.
How do you prioritize your life and get things done?
I am constantly in search of a better to-do list to help me get more done more efficiently, but that probably isn’t the answer. I really try and give focused attention to my most important task of the day when I first get to work. I’m continually failing at this, but it is my unending aspiration. I exercise in the morning because I won’t get to it after the workday is done, and I want to be home and hang out with my family at the end of the day. Turning off email notifications and staying logged out of email helps, too.
Where did you first discover your power?
Being a swimmer in high school and at Kenyon helped me to know I was capable of great things. Not just winning, but of being physically strong and able to persevere through difficult circumstances.
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
So many people at Kenyon were important to me, and I appreciated the opportunity to develop deep and meaningful relationships with faculty and staff throughout my four years. [Former Head Swim] Coach Jim Steen, particularly, helped me so much, and his ability to tailor his advice and guidance to different athletes in different ways is something I try to emulate when I’m teaching physicians.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
No one is more invested in your life having the best possible outcome than you are. It’s okay to prioritize yourself, your family and your goals to achieve what you want, because no one else will.
How has your worldview evolved since leaving Kenyon?
Being at Kenyon was such a gift, such a protected time to think about learning and the world and how I wanted to engage with it. I know now that the world is much more complicated, and that my time at Kenyon was such a privilege, but I also believe I learned how to sit with complexity and uncertainty, which still serves me.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Abi Barnes ’09
Read about the next woman in our series: Vicki Barker ’78 H’96