Through the Student Lens – Leadership program helps students tap their potential and lead both in and out of the classroom

Rachel Hickey ’24
Major: Chemistry / Minor: Hispanic Studies on the pre-med track for Optometry

How does the college help students brimming with leadership potential tap into their skills? Meet a Weiss Women Leadership Program participant and find out how the program helped set her up for success and gave her the confidence to share her newfound knowledge with others, as you take a look “Through the Student Lens.”

Can you explain a little bit about the Weiss Women Leadership Program and how you will continue to be involved in it?

The program is for first-year female-identifying students nominated by faculty, staff and peers who see their potential to be student leaders on campus. I was selected to attend with twenty other students in my first year. The program was held remotely due to COVID-19 and consisted of daily workshops full of information about campus offices and ways to get involved. We also had resume and cover letter workshops and alumni career panels. The program was one of the first times I was able to meet other students in my class due to being a remote student for my entire first year. It gave essential insight into involvement on and off-campus and was really fun. My favorite part of the week was the Pecha Kucha presentations where students created PowerPoints telling their life stories. The program also included group discussions with guest speakers. A Weiss Woman alumna from the Class of 2022 led a discussion on Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” and through this discussion, I gained confidence in sharing my perspectives in a group setting.

I remember wanting to lead a session the following year, as a sophomore, and was so excited when this became a reality. This past January, I served as a discussion leader for the Weiss Women cohort of 2025. My session was on the impacts of mental health due to COVID-19. I enjoyed seeing the first-year students connect over their shared experiences while also respecting each other’s perspectives. I really enjoyed getting to know the 2025 cohort and I hope to continue getting to know all students in the 2024 and 2025 cohorts.

I have enjoyed being a part of the program and seeing how this supportive community has expanded and developed. I would be honored to lead another session in the Weiss Women Leadership Program next year for the 2026 cohort.

How did this program help set you up for success and what Wheaton achievements are you most proud of?

Going into my fall semester of my first year, I had a lot of doubts about staying remote. Although I was staying at home due to COVID-19 concerns, I had a fear I would be missing out on making friends as some students were on campus.

Because the Weiss Women Leadership Program had a mixture of on and off-campus students, I was able to establish connections within the Weiss Women 2024 cohort so when we arrived in the fall, I already knew students in my class.

I think one of my biggest accomplishments here at Wheaton was the Remote Students Initiative, a Student Government Association (SGA) ad hoc committee that stemmed from my desire to create a space for remote students to bond with one another. The committee members were friends and students who also took remote classes.

Another achievement I am proud of is working with Rachel Pink, Assistant Director, Campus Life Operations for the Office of Student Activities, Involvement & Leadership (SAIL) to develop a smoother annual budget system as SGA Treasurer. All budgets now follow a budget template with a key and are submitted via engage@wheaton (our activity platform). Serving as SGA Treasurer taught me skills of time management and pushed me out of my comfort zone to create and enforce policies that would make access to club funding easier and fair for all organizations that are SGA-recognized.

I was invited to serve on the mental health and wellness task force and through this opportunity, I gained experience working with professors, faculty, and students. We collected inventory data on the college’s current mental health and wellness resources and interviewed the student body to see how they would like to see resources improved. This experience gave me more confidence in public speaking and improved my oral communication skills. I am grateful to have worked on a task force with members that wanted to hear my perspective and ideas.

Lastly, I was just elected as the SGA 2024 Class Chair and I am so excited to work with the newly elected class council (Meghan Lambert and Diane Tran). I love event planning and meeting new people so I am really excited to use all the leadership experience I have gained at Wheaton to make the Class of 2024’s junior year memorable. I also plan to have open class council meetings so anyone in the Class of 2024 can attend and plan activities that they want to see and participate in!

How have you shared the skills you learned in Weiss Women Leadership Program with students and others on campus?

Great question! I always tell my peers about the benefits of making appointments with the Career Services office. One time I was working in the library and my coworker was struggling with how to write a resume. Because of the Weiss Women Leadership Program and the introduction to resume building I had from Matt Wheeler, Assistant Director of Career Services and Weiss Women Leadership Program advisor, I had a folder on my laptop that contained a master resume in addition to job-specific resumes. I explained to my coworker how easy it is to write one and shared with him all the resources I was given on resume building during Weiss Women. I really enjoy being able to know the answers to my friends’ questions or know the name of the department or staff member that could best support them. Wheaton has so many resources. I am grateful for all the panels conducted during the Weiss Women Leadership Program because I am now familiar with staff. The familiarity with campus resources, faculty, and other students in my 2024 Weiss Women cohort made my on-campus transition easier.

What has the program meant to you personally?

The program made me feel a part of the Wheaton community at a time when I was isolated from the world. The program gave me the opportunity to learn about campus so when I got here it was not as scary. It gave me the confidence and knowledge necessary to serve as a Summer Orientation Leader in 2021 without ever being on campus. Due to the intensive knowledge of campus, I was taught during the program I felt like I knew just as much as those on campus and could serve as a resource for incoming first-year students.

The Weiss Women Leadership Program is where I made many of my friends and it connected me to other remote students who also were new to campus this past fall. We helped support each other with the transition from remote to on campus.

The program made me feel that I was special and with the right coaching, I could speak in the room and not feel like I said the wrong thing, as it is okay not to always know what to say or do. The program’s intimacy, having a limited number of students and the support from staff and alumni, made me really proud to be a Lyon and explore all opportunities Wheaton has to offer.

The Weiss Women Leadership Program has been made possible through the generosity of a Wheaton alumna and her family. What message might you have for them?

I want to tell the Weiss family thank you for creating a female-empowering community that gave me the confidence to explore academics and involvement on campus. Before Wheaton, I wanted to lead and create events and activities for people to enjoy but oftentimes followed someone rather than led. This program instilled in me the confidence and message that you don’t have to be the loudest or the smartest person in the room to be a leader, but just have the courage and determination to create and participate in your genuine interests.

I want to tell them that my cohort specifically really got involved on campus serving as resident advisors, club leaders, SGA members, dance team captains and more. Continued support for this program will enable first-year female-identifying students to see that they have the potential within themselves to accomplish their dreams. That is why this program needs to continue so future students can have the same positive experience I had.

I truly believe the Weiss Women Leadership Program set me up for success at Wheaton and gave me the confidence to pursue not only my academic goals but my interests outside the classroom, including running for 2024 Class Chair and being elected for 2022-23.

Rachel is just one of the many engaging students here at Wheaton. As parents and guardians, you are an integral part of our community. “Through the Student Lens” brings the campus to you, as seen through the eyes of our students, the many roles they play and the experiences they gain during their time here at Wheaton.