Monique Hacker helped put Binghamton University athletics on the map.
A native of St. Andrew, Jamaica, Hacker moved to the United States when she was 17. About six months later, she competed as a member of Binghamton’s track and field team, shattering the school’s previous triple jump record by nearly five feet in just her second day with the program.
She never looked back.
Hacker became the school’s first female athlete to win a national championship in 1996 when she captured the triple jump title in the fall of her freshman year. Winning the same title in the outdoor championships that spring, Hacker would eventually garner five national championships while at Binghamton.
“Because Binghamton wasn’t really known for its athletics, more importantly track and field, I think it was especially important to put Binghamton on the map,” Hacker said of her championships.
But Hacker would not take sole credit for Binghamton’s athletic rise — the program jumped from Division III to Division II her senior year. Instead, she credited other teammates who also competed in other championship events and performed “really well.”
And when you produce on the field — even in a seemingly individual sport like track and field — you win for your school.
“If I won events at a national championship, it’s not Monique Hacker who won,” she said. “It’s ‘Binghamton won’ or ‘Binghamton placed third.’ So even though track and field is an individual sport mostly, you’re still representing your school.”
And while Hacker helped Binghamton, the opportunity to compete at the college level taught Hacker valuable lessons, which she enacts every day as an associate actuary at New York Life Insurance Company. Playing for a team forces athletes to cooperate and build some sort of chemistry. And if workers in an office cannot cooperate, the company’s production suffers.
“If you’re running a relay, you have to know who is strongest for which leg, so you want to make sure you place each person in the role that is most [appropriate] for that person,” Hacker said. “In the work environment as well … you’ll want to place the person that has the strongest skill set in a particular role.”
Hacker went on to say that having teammates taught her how to adapt to different types of personalities and working habits, another valuable trait transferable to the workplace.
So Hacker helped Binghamton, and Binghamton helped Hacker.
But without Title IX, which passed in 1972, the reciprocal relationship might not have been possible. Fewer schools would offer athletic scholarships to women, leaving fewer opportunities for female athletes to compete at the collegiate level. Hacker could have been squeezed out.
If so, she would not have developed as an athlete, and the secondary effects, such as learning to cooperate, would have had to reach her through another medium.
“I think in general having the same opportunities as other athletes is significant if you’re participating in that sport,” Hacker said. “You’re going to get top coaching and financial support if there is any. You’ll eventually or inevitably become a better athlete overall.”
And if Hacker’s case can be a lesson to critics of Title IX, the act’s positive impact reaches more than just the athlete herself.