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Rachel Nandelenga
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Rachel Nandelenga

Graduation year: 2024

High school: Cary-Grove High School

Hometown: Rock Island, Ill.

Majors: Neuroscience; pre-medicine

Activities: Student Government Association (SGA), PACE, Black Student Union, Phi Rho sorority, Lincoln Laurette, Multicultural Programming Board, Student Policy Committee

Internships: Texas Medical Center internship; UnityPoint Trinity Medical Rotation internship

Post-grad plans: Gap year and apply for medical school

Why Augustana?

My friend's sister went here so I knew it was a school that existed. I chose it because my mom thought the small school would help me transition from my high school. It was honestly never going be a school I would attend, but the person I have grown into would not have come to be without Augie.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

No, definitely not! I used to be really shy and did not have any confidence in myself or my capabilities. However, my aspirations of getting involved pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was really hard for me to understand that I held space and deserved to hold space, but the greatest gift was realizing both of those things through my experiences and the people at Augie.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

My mentors, best friends, staff and my parents. My mom and best friends have really been my biggest supporters, especially on the days when I wanted to give up on my dreams. They have been there for the late nights and reminded me of who I am and where I am going. I have had the best support system, even with people I have met in passing. 

Augustana has a tremendous amount of resources; all you have to do is ASK! Whenever I encountered problems, I made sure to ask people I knew, didn't know or do my own research.

Advocacy is so important when navigating college spaces, not only for yourself but for others. This concept is so important because when I wasn't advocating for myself, I took solace knowing that I would be helping the others after me. This is something all my mentors have instilled in me: you may be the first to walk it, but your pavement will lead the way for others.

Peak experience?

My peak experience has been these past two years. I have met so many amazing people and participated in multiple programs that have made me so happy. However, what has made me feel ecstatic was helping others — being able to guide people in their journey or to find resources or just to be someone for others to lean on.

This has really shone through in my leadership positions and even academically. Now I can leave Augustana knowing I did something to better someone else's world and Augie.

What surprised you?

My journey with myself and others. I have learned a lot academically, socially and emotionally. However, without others providing their time into Augustana to create an environment where individuals can be cultivate who they want to be, our experiences would be far from reality, so i'm truly grateful for what goes on behind the scenes to have the best experience.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

For my Texas Medical Center internship.

What will you miss the most?

I will miss the people the most. Everyone has been so kind and generous. Thats rare to find in the world especially because there won't be OSL events or communities like PACE to meet new people. Nonetheless I would never trade my experiences I have had at Augie, they have truly shaped me into who I never knew I could nor wanted to be.

Advice for the Class of 2028?

This is your journey. People can walk it with you or it simply might not work out, but at the end of the day, it's only YOU. Its seems so obvious but remembering that reminds you of your potential and provides confidence for you to know you are doing great. This place was made for you.

"Rachel is absolutely first-rate! It has been very enjoyable seeing her grow and develop both as a student and as a leader. When she was in the Christian Ethics class her sophomore year, it was not apparent that she was a future SGA president. Yet, here she is, having been elected SGA president in a landslide election! She is eloquent testimony to the fact that Augustana is a place that helps students realize their potential. Augustana has been a good place for Rachel to be. Augustana is also a good place to be because Rachel has helped make Augustana be what it can be."

– Dr. Dan Lee, professor, religion