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In a League of Her Own

In a League of Her Own

DeCarol Davis is leading the way in academics and athletics, shining in each arena.

By Saira Moini

Top Female Student – Athlete
School: U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Year: Junior
Major: Electrical Engineering
Cumulative GPA: 3.95
Fall 2006 GPA: 4.0
Sport: Basketball

It seems paradoxical, but by being the ultimate team player, DeCarol Davis, a junior at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, is leading the way in academics, basketball, student government — and even in transforming the Academy itself.

On the court and in the classroom, aboard ship or out in the local community, this Coast Guard cadet shines in every arena.

“DeCarol amazes us all. She’s off the charts academically, a league apart, yet she’s unbelievably modest and fits in to every team environment here,” says women’s basketball coach Alex Simonka, a retired Coast Guard commander who recruited Davis to the Academy. 

Davis, the 2007 Arthur Ashe Jr. Female Sports Scholar of the Year, is a leader on USCG’s basketball and softball teams. She has been elected class president twice and helped establish the first recycling program on campus. Through her own initiative, she ensured that cadets studying leadership now also learn about the accomplishments and perspectives of Black women leaders in the Coast Guard.

“As a member of a group, I want to empower people, be their representative, make them great,” says the electrical engineering major.

The only Black woman in the junior class, Davis is ranked first among 237 classmates, with her GPA approaching 4.0. She has made the Dean’s List as well as the Commandant of Cadets’ List for Military Excellence, both top academic honors.

She was just named to the 2007 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team for women’s basketball.

“On the court, DeCarol handles the ball well while also helping her teammates make their plays,” says Simonka. “She’s very focused on the group and is a calming influence.” This season, Davis averaged
8.8 points, 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

“Basketball is an awesome game,” says Davis. “You work toward a common goal, learn how to motivate others. There’s a dynamic and a solidarity that you build together. I love how the game drives me,
I love the group. And I feel the same way about being part of the Coast Guard.”

When injuries recently took her off the court, Davis cheered her teammates from the sidelines. She also continued a full schedule of out-of-class activities, including tutoring her peers in calculus and chemistry, participating in the cleanup of surrounding New London, Conn., neighborhoods and building homes with Habitat for Humanity. Davis also coaches a local high school softball team, plays in the regimental band and sings in a gospel choir. 

The second-class cadet recently developed and produced an engineering outreach play for local schoolchildren called “The Little Engineer,” which has been commended by the Society of Women Engineers. 

“In my 22 years at the Academy, DeCarol is the only cadet I’ve taught who is equally strong in the humanities and the sciences — as well as athletics and the arts,” says Dr. Faye Ringel, a professor of English who is now Davis’ graduate scholarship advisor. “She’s extraordinary, and she’s extremely courageous, intellectually fearless. She has a strong moral and ethical compass. In my honors literature classes, DeCarol inspires her classmates by asking the difficult questions. People admire her and listen to her.”

A native of Virginia, Davis says she draws inspiration and strength from her religious beliefs and her family. 

“My parents and older sister, who’s completing her Ph.D., are phenomenal,” she says. “My mother is a librarian and a strong Black woman, very wise and willing to sacrifice for me. And my father, who’s a retired Marine, has taught me to challenge, to stand up for things. They allowed me the freedom to develop my own thoughts, yet made it clear that succeeding in school was my ‘job.’ So I’ve always felt the need to prove myself.

“They grew up in the South, experiencing the civil rights movement, and they raised me with a sense of urgency and responsibility,” Davis continues. “I have high regard for what others have done for me and feel obligated to be part of that bridge.”  

Her concerns range from energy and the environment to issues of peace and justice. This summer, Davis will conduct research on employing Smart Meters for tracking electrical energy usage. In graduate school, she plans to study environmental science policy and management, then perhaps head to law school. She envisions applying her learning and talents within the Coast Guard or in the U.S. Department of Energy.
The idealistic Davis is the Academy’s pick this year as an applicant for the Truman Scholarship and Rhodes Scholarship.

Simonka remarks that the cadet has grown into an exceptional military
leader at the Academy. He predicts that “DeCarol will be a great leader for all of us one day.”

Past Arthur Ashe Female Sports Scholars of the Year*

2006: Sarah Lowe, University of Florida, Basketball: Is in Costa Rica on a Fulbright Scholarship researching the Central American Free Trade Agreement, her proposed project.

2005: Sharonda Latrice Johnson, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Track & Field

2003: Kara Lawson, University of Tennesee-Knoxville, Basketball

2002: Carlla Johnson, University of Maryland College Park, Gymnastics

2001: Danielle Slaton, Santa Clara University, Soccer

2000: Christiana Nwofor, Oberlin College, Track & Field

1999: Shannon Brown, University of Wisconsin, Soccer

1998: LaTisha Shaw, Stevens Institute of Technology, Soccer and Track & Field

1997: Natasha Taylor, West Texas A&M University, Basketball

1996: Christina ThomasKutty, Tulane University, Basketball

1995: Michaelene Tetteh, Arizona State University, Track & Field
*Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award was not presented in 2004

–Saira Moini

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