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Senior Rachel Wheeler Is Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Nicole Patterson

Wheeler feature

Rachel Wheeler, C’22, is following many of her passions this summer—and gaining communication, research and service skills in the pursuit. She is a Maguire Scholar, an Honors student and a Mount Fellow. Thanks to an award from the Office of Competitive Fellowships, made possible by generous support from the Delaplaine Foundation, she is spending her time wisely.

“This is the fourth year that the university has supported fellowship students pursuing significant summer activities in preparation for future fellowship applications and long-term career goals,” said Associate Professor of History and Director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships Jamie A. Gianoutsos, Ph.D.

Wheeler, an international studies and English major, with a minor in Spanish, is completing an internship with Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST), serving as a research assistant to review 18th and 19th century Spanish periodicals in the National Library of Spain, mastering a level 3 Portuguese course and finishing a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate through the Council on International Educational Exchange.

“I intend to enter the Foreign Service after graduation, which is more of a lifestyle than a job, and I expect my hectic schedule this summer will prepare me for the rest of my life,” she commented. In preparation for her future success, Wheeler says it’s important to make the most of her opportunities.

ADST Internship

At the beginning of June, Wheeler began a virtual internship with the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, which supports the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. She has been working on designing lesson plans on the Organization of American States for Virginia high school teachers, transcribing the Oral History of Ambassador Bernie Aronson and managing the ADST’s social media posts. She also hopes to get involved with the organization’s podcast series.

“I enjoy the work we do so much that I find myself picking up extra projects left and right, and working well past the end of my shift,” she said. Wheeler plans to continue the internship part-time throughout the fall semester.

She’s able to complete the unpaid internship from a stipend she received from Sigma Tau Delta, the English National Honor Society. Associate Professor of English Jack Dudley, Ph.D., and Wheeler’s Maguire Scholarship advisor Jaquelyn Yiatrou wrote her recommendation letters. 

Wheeler heard about the internship from her friend Anne Frederick, who planned to apply but was accepted into the Rangel Summer Enrichment Program funded by the U.S. Department of State. This summer, Frederick received a Fellowships Summer Award to fund her research assistance work transcribing electoral process interviews for Professor of Political Science Michael Towle, Ph.D., and complete a summer conversational Italian course with Professor and Chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures Marco Roman, Ph.D.

Research Assistantship & Portuguese Class

Wheeler has also received funds for 40 hours of research assistance to review 18th and 19th century Spanish periodicals in the national Library of Spain for Professor of Spanish Literature and Culture and Associate Director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships Christine Blackshaw, Ph.D.

Motivated by her love of the Spanish language, Wheeler is also taking a level 3 Portuguese class this summer for three hours once a week, which began at the end of June. She admits she reads Portuguese novels, watches Brazilian TV shows and speaks with her mom, grandma and other Brazilian family members. “While I have a native grasp of the language from growing up in a Brazilian household, I hope to advance my professional abilities in Portuguese in case I am granted the Fulbright to Brazil next year!” she acknowledged, noting she’s working through the Fulbright English Teaching Award (ETA) to Brazil application with Blackshaw.

TEFL Certification

“The possibility of becoming a future English teacher in Brazil inspired me to pursue the 60-hour self-paced online TEFL certificate through CIEE,” she added. She plans to start later in the summer.  Wheeler’s experience volunteering for several months teaching English as a second language through Frederick Literacy Council’s tutor training center helped prepare her to teach abroad to learners of all levels.

Love of Public Service

Wheeler also works 40 hours per week shifts as a patrol ranger with a private community in the Pocono Mountains to finance her studies. She often completes her internship work from the beaches and pools of the private lake community.

“My chief, John Lamberton, has been more than understanding with my schedule, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to satisfy my love of public service through this job,” she said, having worked there last summer as well. This summer, though, is her first as a certified emergency medical technician—thanks to her experience volunteering at Emmitsburg’s Vigilant Hose Company. “I’m excited to practice my skills and serve others in this capacity, “she added.

What She Did Last Summer

Last summer, Wheeler participated in the week-long United Nations Intensive Summer Study Program where she engaged with experienced peacekeepers and distinguished ambassadors. She also wrote a piece for Mount Magazine titled “Reflections on Racial Reconciliation” about her time in February 2020 when she traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, with classmates and Associate Professor of History Timothy Fritz, Ph.D. as part of the first Parker-Dailey Seminar. Ten fellows participated in a fully-funded one-credit seminar to discuss the topic of slavery and historical memory.

The Sigma Tau Delta Honors student wrote: “It is the personal responsibility of every student at the Mount to capitalize on opportunities such as the Parker-Dailey Fellowship in order to learn more about a history of oppression made present every day by instances of racism and inequality in our community.”

Advice to Students

“I would encourage students to prepare for the future now and take advantage of every opportunity while you have the support system of the Mount,” she advised, citing a book and an argument presented in The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of them Now by psychologist Meg Jay, Ph.D. “She debunks the popular belief that the 20s do not matter and you should do whatever you want to avoid tying yourself down too quickly to a career, relationship and family,” Wheeler said. “It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the work and planning we are doing now as 18, 19 and 20-somethings in college matters, which is why we need to fully prepare and engage with the opportunities presented to us now.” Wheeler’s Maguire Scholarship advisor suggested the book.

“I have not found that my work ties me down, in fact I find it fun and exciting!” she shared. “Since it is just the beginning of summer, I am still finding a balance between work and play and trying to figure out how to adjust my schedule, but I have been able to do so many fun things already while working hard.” On the weekends she spends time with family and friends hiking on the Delaware River Water Gap, kayaking, paddle boarding, dancing and running. Wheeler will celebrate her 21st birthday in August.

Nicole Patterson