Aug. 2, 2017

From Grounds to Gold to Justice: Georgia Ratcliff Well-Prepared for Her Year at Batten

Teamwork and achievement have propelled Georgia Ratcliff to a series of successes while at Batten, and helped her secure a valued internship at the U.S. Department of Justice.

She proved ready for the responsibility. “The unique aspect of Batten, in my opinion, is that it is focused on preparing its student for real-world scenarios by teaching a collaborative, critical way of thinking,” Ratcliff said.

And she emphasized that achievement is due to the people at Batten, from the professors to the students, who are the program’s greatest asset.

Ratcliff credits Batten with giving her the knowledge that effort and personal intellect are not enough: “I think Batten has instilled in me the importance of not just hard work, but resourceful hard work. The program puts you in situations that are difficult, whether because it is time-sensitive, involves diverse individuals, or involves complex problems. Batten asks you to solve the problem using all your resources, and then provides you with the best resources out there. The program is truly incredible at this.”

Ratcliff found great rewards from both academic and athletic accomplishments. This spring, Ratcliff, a four-year member of the UVA rowing team, was named the ACC Rowing Scholar-Athlete of the Year; she is just one of four UVA students to be honored in 2016-2017 as an ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

She also was an All-ACC Academic team member for all four years. (This past spring, five other UVA rowers also were named to the All-ACC Academic team).

And Ratcliff was a first-team All-American in 2016 and 2017.

Internationally, Ratcliff has won three World Championship gold medals. Two came at the 2015 Under 23 World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in the women’s eight and pair. A year later, Ratcliff won a gold medal at the 2016 Under 23 World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Ratcliff, left (photo courtsey of Virginiasports.com)

The “greatest highlights,” Ratcliff said, “have been times when it wasn’t so much a personal success as much as a team success, because for me, standing on a medal dock is somewhat lonely without teammates to celebrate that moment with.”

Not every rowing endeavor has ended as well. Last year in Rotterdam, Ratcliff fell ill following a dominant finish in the preliminary pair race: “I couldn’t leave my bed for the three days prior to the World Championship pair final. While I made it to the start line, I (temporarily) lost my vision halfway through the race.” Ratcliff finished fourth, missing the bronze medal by three-tenths of a second and ending up recovering in the medical tent.

This past spring, Ratcliff and her fellow UVA Varsity Eight rowers had to settle for a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, the lowest finish in Ratcliff’s career at UVA. (The whole UVA rowing team came in 11th.) In 2016, the UVA rowing team finished third and the Varsity Eight came in fifth. In 2015, Ratcliff’s sophomore year, the positions had been reversed: Ratcliff and her fellow Varsity Eight rowers finished third nationally, and the UVA rowing team came in fifth.

Through these successes and failures, Ratcliff said she has grown to appreciate the strong connections she forges with her teammates. “Rowing smoothly and completely in sync with someone, and then getting to win a gold medal with them, that is special, of course,” she said, reflecting on her women’s pair competition in Bulgaria.

“But, on the other hand, rowing the eight is a total exhilarating feeling as well, perhaps more fun. It’s less meditative and more fury, fun, hate, love then a pair. When you win in a pair, it is much more intimate and reflective. When you win a world or national championship medal in an eight, you’ve brought the party to celebrate with you on the awards dock.”

Ratcliff’s summer schedule included an early-morning workout, her eight-hour internship, and two evening college courses: a research course for UVA professor Carah Ong Whaley, Lecturer in the Department of Politics, and a course at Northern Virginia Community College.

At her internship, “it is a lot more than simply dealing with numbers, but learning to understand the people behind economic decisions. I think that’s the core of Batten and what I am doing at the Department of Justice.”

In Washington, D.C. (photo courtesy of Ratcliff)

Ratcliff completed in August a double-major in Economics and Foreign Affairs, with a minor in Leadership. She’s continuing with Batten as a full-time master’s degree student this fall.