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Week of September 27, 2010

Staff Spotlight

Administrative assistant is former open water swimming champion

If you don’t count the time she swam through a school of stinging jellyfish, former competitive swimmer Erica Rose has fully enjoyed her time as the Open Water World Champion.

“It was the worst encounter I had. I was swimming from the island of Capri to the coast of Italy. I was stung all over my arms and chest. It was painful and I knew I had another five hours to go,” she says.

Photo by Brendan Dancik.

Rose competed for 12 years representing USA Swimming and was a member of seven different World Championship teams. “I loved the traveling, I had the opportunity to see the world and compete at the highest possible level; in 2008, though, I decided I was ready to explore different career options and have a life without training full time,” she says.

From her former training base, Evanston, Ill. — where she earned a degree in psychology from Northwestern University — she moved in March to Ann Arbor to be near her boyfriend and his family. She also began work in the Office of University Development as an administrative assistant, supporting the talent management team.

“When positions become available in the development community, there’s a team at the central office that recruits to fill those positions. I work as part of that team,”she says. Rose schedules interviews for people applying for positions, helps supervisors prepare for meetings, and also works closely with the Finance and Administration team within the Office of University Development.

Rose says she’s pleased to be part of the growing effort to seek donor support for the university, as public support has been shrinking.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the development community at a time when private support has become equally important, if not more important, than public support,” she says. “It’s amazing to see how many people have such strong ties and true commitment to the University of Michigan.”

“I’m having a great time; I work with a wonderful group of people and I’m eager to learn more. I love it.”

Rose says her passion for open-water swimming started while growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. A competitive swimmer as a girl, she found she favored the long-distance events, and by age 14 competed in her first open water swim.

“You have a lot more freedom in the open water than in a pool. The conditions vary, you encounter waves and tides and currents and sea life,” she says. “It never really bothers me, (but) it can be startling at first.”

“I think open water swimmers are people who like adventure, who like challenges and who are competitive, mainly competitive with themselves,” she says.

During competitions, each swimmer has a boat with a driver or rower who also serves as coach. They provide swimmers with Gatorade, gel packs or bananas, and let them know what’s happening in the race, Rose says.

While she retired from professional competitive swimming in 2008, Rose remains involved with the sport through clinics and fund-raising opportunities around the nation. During the last weekend in August, she performed a circumnavigation swim of Mackinac Island, to raise money for the Make A Splash program associated with USA Swimming. The initiative helps fund swimming lessons for children who otherwise can’t afford them.

She and marathon swimmer Mallory Mead finished in 3 hours, 46 minutes. “The water was a bit chilly — 64 degrees in the harbor and colder in some spots — but we made it,” Rose says.

“We received a great deal of support from the Mackinac Island Yacht Club as well as spectators along the shore who cheered us on toward the end of the swim. We also raised $400 for swim lessons for children.”

Rose says she hopes to pursue a graduate degree at U-M within the next few years.

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



Erica Rose, administrative assistant, Office of University Development, on the importance of attracting U-M donors: “It’s exciting to be a part of the development community at a time when private support has become equally important, if not more important, than public support.”


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