March 16, 2009
Whitworth Psychology Alumna Awarded Harvard's Prestigious Zuckerman Fellowship
Rachel Frazier's pursuit of a law degree and master's degree in public health resulted in part from exposure to social justice issues at Whitworth
During her senior year at Whitworth, Rachel Frazier became determined to pursue a career as a research psychologist with an emphasis on people living in poverty.
"I applied to Ph.D. programs in social psychology and was rejected by each one," Frazier says. "I don't think that it was a rejection of me personally; I think that it was a signal that social psychology was not the right fit for me."
Frazier didn't know it at the time, but those setbacks, along with others she has encountered on her journey since graduating from Whitworth, would lead her pursue a degree at Harvard Law School, where she has become one of 25 current Harvard student to receive a prestigious fellowship.
After graduating magna cum laude from Whitworth in 2004, Frazier spent three years working and volunteering in a variety of fields, ranging from LSAT instruction to welfare rights advocacy to car insurance sales. Each experience helped her discover a little more about her strengths and passions. She says they also connected her to what was happening in the world.
For instance, Frazier says that working for AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), a national service program specifically designed to fight poverty, provided her the opportunity to move to Olympia, Wash., and try out her dream of helping people.
"Working for AmeriCorps VISTA helped me grow up," Frazier says. "It was a hard year; I worked for low wages, met people in tough circumstances, and was challenged to find a way to help. Through trial and error, I found that the best way to help the people who were coming to my office was to reach out for help myself."
During her time with AmeriCorps VISTA, Frazier and other volunteers developed an application assistance program for people who couldn't afford their medications. She says she could not have developed the program without her fellow volunteers, who are still working on the project.
"My experience helping people navigate the health insurance system left a lasting impact on me," Frazier says. "I met people who had lost their health insurance and access to health care. For many, the process of getting insurance was stressful enough to exacerbate their medical conditions."
Inspired by her work with AmeriCorps VISTA, Frazier decided to pursue a career in law. She is now a second-year student at Harvard Law School and has been pursuing a master's in public health at the Harvard School of Public Health since June 2008. She was one of 25 Harvard students to receive the esteemed Zuckerman Fellowship last September.
"Through the fellowship, I've been able to meet people who work with City Year, the Boston Foundation, Share Our Strength, and many other wonderful organizations," Frazier says. "My co-fellows are engaged in creative approaches to religious tolerance, special education, health care delivery and more. It's an honor to know such amazing people."
The Zuckerman Fellowship annually provides recipients with full tuition and health insurance fees for one year, plus a $30,000 stipend. Fellows are selected on the basis of leadership abilities, intellectual and academic achievement, and commitment to public service. Frazier plans to use the resources provided by the fellowship to focus on access to health care as a legal aid attorney and advocate for healthful public policy.
Although working with AmeriCorps VISTA and other organizations helped stoke the fires of Frazier's interest in social discrimination issues, her passion for social justice was ignited by Whitworth's Prejudice Across America study program.
"The Prejudice Across America trip sensitized me to undertones of inequality and has helped me approach law with care," Frazier says. "Law gives people great power, and wielding power carefully includes looking for disparate impacts based on religion, sexual preference, class and race. I am thankful that Whitworth offered the classes necessary to help me be aware of differential privilege."
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,600 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or email@example.com.