Rachel Baker (Class of 2018)

photo of Rachel Baker

  • senior Political Science and Spanish double major
  • from Eden Prairie, MN
  • student athlete on Miami's swim team
  • member of scholarship committee for leadership and academic fraternity Phi Sigma Pi
  • hiked a portion of the Camino de Santiago during the Miami in Spain study abroad program (Summer 2016)
  • Interned on Capitol Hill with Strategies 360, a strategic communications firm (Summer 2017)
  • Ohio Public Leader Fellow (January 2018)
"Studying abroad was my passion, and I knew it was something that I came here to do. Finding a program that fit for me was just an incredible experience, and I'm so glad that I decided to go after it!"

Why Miami?

Miami University Swimming Team members Ana Castellaños and Rachel Baker share a laugh.

"I've been swimming my entire life — my mom had me in swimming classes since I was a baby. It's always been a part of me and who I am, so when I was looking to swim in college, I wanted a university that would be perfect for me regardless of my ultimate direction.

"I found that in Miami, which recruited me for the swim team. However, upon visiting campus and meeting with faculty, I saw that Miami was much more than an athletic option. I talked to Patrick Haney, who was the chair of the Department of Political Science at the time, and he presented me with all kinds of great connections and experiences available here. Also, I noticed that special feeling when you step foot on a campus as beautiful as this, and specific landmarks like Upham Arch and the Seal made Miami stand out for me.

"I discovered a pretty steep learning curve during my first year. Not only was I transitioning academically from high school to college, but I was also transitioning in the pool as a student athlete. Making sure I could get all my homework done, speaking with professors, and being successful on the swim team were all important goals, whether in the classroom, the pool, or the weight room.

"The demands and challenges of swimming for Miami have allowed me to be disciplined, not only in the classroom but also in all aspects of my life. After that first year, I really found my place and was able to join some clubs, make friends beyond the swim team, and manage my time and perform better both academically and in the water.

"Because the swim season goes almost entirely the whole year, I spend around 20 hours a week in and around the pool, depending on travel needs, competitions, and so on. It's always a challenge — if I were not a student athlete, I think I'd often push things off! Knowing I need to submit a paper early because I have practice in the morning, I always make sure to get a good night's sleep and have my week properly lined up.

"In high school I had a really good experience with several politics classes and realized that political science is a great way to see the world through different lenses. That's why I chose Political Science as a major from the beginning. You can look at it through data, culture, and your own interactions with people, all things that I really enjoy."

Best Miami Experiences

"First and foremost, my swim teammates, both men and women, have been my closest friends at Miami. Because we've been training together every day, we've gotten to know each other really well. They've always been supportive, with me on both my worst days and my best days, and we all have a diverse arena of interests that I love discussing. I know I will definitely stay in contact with my class, with my teammates, our Miami swimming alumni network is so strong and everyone always keeps in touch.

"Studying abroad in Spain, which I did during the summer of 2016, was one of the greatest experiences I have had at Miami. I was worried at first that it would interfere with swimming, but looking back I realized that having the chance to experience the world like that was an incredible opportunity that I couldn't pass up.

"For the Miami in Spain program, led by associate professor José Domínguez Búrdalo, we hiked part of the ancient pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago. As part of a documentation project they used a drone to capture some amazing footage of our group walking the Camino and talking to people along the way.

Rachel Baker poses on the Speaker of the House balcony in Washington, DC.

"Then, this past summer, I had an internship in Washington, DC with a strategic communications firm called Strategies 360. I found it through Political Science, and it was huge because internships with most DC agencies and firms are swamped with applications. For one job, for example, over 15,000 people applied! But I spoke with Dr. Haney about my summer goals, and he simply said, 'I'll talk to a guy.' During finals week I got a phone call, and by the end of the week I was in DC! This shows how Miami provides an amazing network for all kinds of opportunities.

"My day-to-day tasks at the firm ranged anywhere from writing memoranda for clients, helping to organize fly-ins, going to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and deliver important documents, and researching policy issues for our clients. I realized that it's one thing to learn about the government from the confines of the classroom, but it's a totally different experience to be able to see it firsthand. I was amazed at the access I had to people on the Hill, and I was even able to tour the Speaker's office because he's Paul Ryan, a Miami alum!

"In addition to political science, I picked up a Spanish major during my junior year. Instructor Ricardo Antonio Sosa in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese has been a great mentor for me. He is from Colombia and often shares interesting stories from there, so even in his introductory and intermediate level Spanish classes I really enjoyed these cultural perspectives."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"I am a firm believer that how interesting you are depends on how interested you are. Being able to entertain a broad range of interests at Miami through the liberal arts has really helped me become who I am today. I'm never confined to one area but can explore a variety of topics. This gives you a great professional skill set enabling you to have a broad global perspective, great adaptability, and the ability to be more personable with people.

"Although I haven't graduated yet, I feel that the job market is very open. The liberal arts provides a lot of important skills like critical thinking, and particularly for political science I find it to be very flexible and relevant. With that background you can do any range of work, whether it's domestic, international, focusing on one issue, or focusing on many. Political science provides a clear way to understand the world by viewing it from different lenses.

"When I pair my Spanish language classes with poli-sci, I feel I can understand different populations of people better. For example, I worked as a volunteer with a Cincinnati Latino community for a healthcare research project in my Spanish for Healthcare class, taught by lecturer Julie A. Szucs. It showed me that Spanish and political science really go hand-in-hand: understanding not only healthcare and the government but also language, cultural norms, and communication. I experienced both the cultural and experiential perspective as well as the nuts and bolts that the classroom side offered.

"Another class that really paid off was one on the weapons of mass destruction, taught by Christopher Quillen in political science. And because I love art, I've taken a bunch of art history classes; it's a really valuable perspective to have."

Hiking the Camino de Santiago

Rachel describes her study abroad experience in Spain, where she hiked and biked a portion of the famous Camino de Santiago.

Hiking the Camino de Santiago Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"Keep your options open and take classes that excite you. When you know there's going to be a great lecture with important and relevant information, you can't help but be excited about it. I always try to have two or three of these kinds of classes each semester.

"Remember that there are so many great ways to get involved on campus. Make sure to find something that you're really passionate about and pursue it relentlessly. Studying abroad was my passion, and I knew it was something that I came here to do. Finding a program that fit for me was just an incredible experience, and I'm so glad that I decided to go after it!"

[January 2018]