Chemistry major Rachel Whitmire of Pendleton attended the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders at the University of Maryland May 30-June 1 this year, just after completing her junior year at Erskine College.
The conference was presented by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
The Due West Branch of AAUW nominated Whitmire, working with Erskine’s Student Services personnel to recommend a student for selection from among nominees throughout South Carolina.
“I believe that each person has the opportunity to positively impact the world if we embrace the idea of service to others first,” Rachel said in a statement to the selection committee for the conference.
“As a leader inside and outside the classroom, and someone who is respected by her peers, faculty, and staff, Rachel was an ideal candidate to represent Erskine at NCCWS,” Vice President for Student Services Dr. Robyn Agnew said.
The most exciting aspect of the conference, Rachel said, was “having the opportunity to network with other college women and leaders from across the world.” She said she has brought back to the campus some of the ideas she gleaned from women at the conference.
Rachel’s favorite conference session was a workshop called “Leadership, True Colors.” She said the session helped her to understand “more about how and why I lead the way I do, and more importantly, how to work best with leaders who have different styles.”
Pre-conference activities included opportunities to volunteer in the surrounding community. “I chose ‘Food and Friends,’ an organization in Washington, D.C., that packs and delivers meals to approximately 3,000 clients,” she said.
“‘Food and Friends’ serves a specific population of doctor-recommended patients with HIV, AIDS, or cancer, and the meals are packed to meet specific dietary needs. This was a great experience and I had the opportunity to work alongside and meet new friends before the conference officially began.”
Rachel said the Conference for College Women Student Leaders is the first national-level conference she has attended. “Last fall, I attended the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS) in Raleigh, North Carolina,” she said. “I presented a research poster on the docking studies of DNA minor groove binder Hx-IP by binding affinity calculations.”
Whitmire, who is minoring in mathematics, is a member of the cross country team and has served as captain. She has also served as junior class representative in the Student Christian Association; vice president of the American Chemical Society; treasurer of the Krazy Math Enthusiasts; and on the Arrow staff as editor.
Rachel cited two Erskine mentors who have influenced her.
Young Professor of Chemistry Dr. Howard Thomas, who serves as her advisor, is the first.
“I consider Dr. Howard Thomas an influential mentor. He has helped me to develop a strong four-year plan and set up professional development opportunities such as my Winter Term externship at AnMed Hospital,” she said. “He has a sincere passion for helping students and I am grateful for his guidance.”
Rachel also singled out Head Cross Country Coach Tasha James.
“I consider my cross-country coach, Coach Tasha James, a mentor,” Rachel said. “She has challenged me to become a better runner and stronger leader. She leads by example and also encourages me in my faith.”
Rachel is an active member of Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Pendleton and during the summer following her sophomore year traveled to Peru on a mission trip, making use of her study of Spanish. She hopes to become a hospital pharmacist.
“I’m grateful to AAUW for enabling me to attend this conference,” she said. “I would recommend it for any student.”
The Due West Branch of AAUW was established in 1958-59 through encouragement from Dr. J.R. McCain, Erskine graduate and president of Agnes Scott College, and Mrs. J.M. “Totsy” Lesesne, first lady of Erskine College. Branch members prepare exam bags at Christmas for Erskine students and sponsor a Student Recognition Banquet in the spring for women students at Erskine and at Abbeville County high schools. Professor Emerita of Biology Dr. Janice Haldeman serves as president of the Due West Branch.
Honorary alumnus Richard Haldeman, who served as public relations director at Erskine for many years, kindly provided information for this story.