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Student Spotlight: Rachel Woodlee


Rachel Woodlee
Rachel Woodlee

Interim travels opened Rhodes Scholar's eyes

In November, Rachel Woodlee became part of several exclusive groups.

On Nov. 17, 2012, the senior majoring in business economics and Chinese language and culture at United Methodist-related Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., was named a 2013 Rhodes Scholar. The election made Woodlee:

One of 32 scholars selected in 2012 from among 838 applicants (18 of the 2013 recipients are from Harvard, Yale or one of the United States' military academies);

One of 17 students from United Methodist-related schools to receive the world's oldest and one of the most prestigious international fellowships;

One of six Wofford College students to win the award.The first was in 1908 and the last in 1974.

Fellow Wofford College senior Brian Novak McCracken was also among the 200 finalists in 2012.

Beginning two years of studies at Oxford College in England in October, Woodlee will work toward a master of philosophy degree in modern Chinese culture, another step toward realizing her vocation in international affairs.

Experiences aid discernment

Woodlee says her four years at Wofford have provided valuable experiences, which "allowed me to discern what I truly want to do in the future, and in what environment I perform to the best of my ability."

She spent a month each in China, Peru and Belize through Wofford's Interim January term and worked as an intern in a corporate think tank in India for a summer. "The exposure to different cultures and ways of life opened my eyes to the realities of the world, beyond the narrow scope of my upbringing," she said.

During a recent 16-day trip to Belize, Woodlee studied how the country's history affects its current state of affairs and how it is encouraging sustainable ecotourism. "We traveled to four cities and learned about sustainable farming and the effects of development on the local and indigenous people," she said.

She also spent a semester in Beijing through an immersion program and worked a summer each at an advertising firm and a law firm in the United States.

In addition to excelling academically, Woodlee is also the captain of Wofford's NCAA Division 1 volleyball team and among its top players. She participates in several missions sponsored by the student athlete advisory committee, such as collecting hygiene products for homeless shelters, collecting canned food and reading to students at local elementary schools.

Learning about self, faith, subjects

"Being at Wofford means that I have a support network of students, professors and staff who are committed to Christian values," she said. "Learning in that environment has taught me a lot about myself and my faith, while I'm simultaneously learning the subjects we are studying in class."

A member of Advent United Methodist Church in Simpsonville, S.C., Woodlee chose to attend Wofford because of its "rigorous academics, competitive athletics, vibrant campus life and an association with The United Methodist Church, which has been such a large part of my life from childhood."

"Academic and athletic goals are important," she said, "but the college process is so much about the environment and the people you meet. It's important to pick the one that fulfills every facet of your life."

Fluent in Mandarin, Woodlee plans to work on improving relations between the United States and China when she graduates.

"I am not a megalomaniac," she said with a laugh, "I don't think I can change everything on my own, but I'm hoping through work in international law or business or even policymaking, I can help create a better understanding between the countries for the benefit of everyone."

Heather Hahn and Heather Peck Stahl