Senior Snapshot: Rachel Hodes Finds Joy in an Unusual Year

Rachel Hodes
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With the end of their senior year fast approaching, Rachel Hodes ’21 wants “to cram all of the positive experiences I can in the next month, because it’s happening so fast. I want to embrace the last academic experience I’ll have for a while, too.”

That’s because Hodes, a sociology major, has already accepted a job as a community organizer in Savannah, Ga., with Justice Unites Savannah Together, an interfaith initiative addressing poverty and affordable housing. Their decision to pursue this work was inspired by a seminar they took with Laura Grattan, Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science, called Grassroots Organizing. “For a while I was looking at politics, but at some point I was like, I don’t know if that’s the way I want to make change,” they said. The course with Grattan cemented their interest in community organizing: “I was like, I think this is the work I want to be doing every day,” they said.

Hodes has taken a few classes at Wellesley that crystallized important decisions for them. They describe an intro to sociology course with Smitha Radhakrishnan, Luella LaMer Professor of Women’s Studies and professor of sociology, as “the class that made me a sociology major … that was definitely transformative.” “I remember our first assignment involved linking our own experiences to broader systemic issues and specific institutional policies, and completing that assignment allowed me to apply sociological thinking to my own life, something I still try to practice today,” they said.

Hodes fully embraces the ideals of a liberal arts education. Even though they love their major, “I have the bare minimum of classes for my major … I just want to try everything,” they said. “Everything” has included classes from Introduction to the Moving Image to Writing AIDS to U.S. Consumer Culture and Citizenship.

They also wanted to try social science research before leaving college, so they connected with Linda Charmaraman, a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Hodes was on campus for Wintersession in 2020 when most students were away and used the opportunity to make themselves available. “I kind of bugged her. I was like ‘I’m here! I could do anything, if you want me to work on a project,’” they said, laughing. They eventually co-authored with Charmaraman an accepted journal article on how LGBTQ+ youth use social media, an accepted book chapter on marginalized and understudied adolescents’ use of digital media, and a paper about YouTube that will be submitted for publication in summer 2021. Some of this work will be featured in Hodes’ upcoming Ruhlman presentation on May 20.

With the end of their time at Wellesley in sight, Hodes said they have a mix of emotions: sadness over not being able to see friends due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, gratitude for the opportunity to be on campus and engage with other students in person. In spite of the conflicted emotions, “I’m trying to find the joy in it,” they said.

As for the class of 2025, who will soon start their Wellesley experience, Hodes wants them to remember that they are lucky to be coming when there’s a chance at a normal semester again. “It’s a really exciting time,” they said. “I hope they meet as many people as possible and enjoy their academics … and explore different things. Don’t make yourself too busy with things you don’t really want to do.”