Rae-Anna Sollestre is one of our wonderful AMS alumni that graduated this past summer. She is a double major in Political Science and American Studies with a concentration in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies. She is originally from Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb right off of Detroit’s city limits. Throughout her time at DePaul she has focused on analyzing issues of diversity through a historical and political lens, which is important to her in part because of her experiences growing up in largely homogenized spaces. Rae-Anna declared a Political Science major as an incoming freshman. She knew she wanted to pursue another major or minor and found exactly what she needed in American Studies. She was first exposed to American Studies when she took her freshmen focal point about JFK with Dr. Brask. She started investigating the American Studies major online and emailed Dr. McCracken for more information. She then chose to concentrate in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies.
Last fall, Rae-Anna participated in a semester-long internship with Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, through Georgetown University’s Semester in Washington, D.C. Program. The Georgetown program provides undergraduates with a unique opportunity to study political science while developing professional skills in the nation’s capital.
She worked with the Continuing Studies Program and lived in NYU dorms near the business district in D.C. It was a couple of blocks from their train system and only fifteen minutes away from the White House. All students were required to take three courses within a specific track. Rae-Anna focused on the “Public Policy and Law” track and took a public policy course, a research seminar and an internship course. She attended her courses every Monday and Friday, and worked in Nancy Pelosi’s Leadership Office every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Her administrative tasks varied according to Pelosi’s events and schedule. She often had to write memos for specific issue-based meetings, and she feels like American Studies really prepared her for this type of work.
Throughout her time in D.C., Rae-Anna attended meetings regarding a large variety of issues within the US, such as males facing sexually assault in the military, opioid abuse, poverty in the veteran community, and demographic disparities in STEM fields. She also attended a number of important events like the Susan G. Komen Gala and After-Party, National Press Club lunches, the reception for the approval of the Iran Deal, the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Women’s Coalition of Common Sense Domestic Violence Awareness Summit, and Pope Francis’s visit to the Capitol. Two of her most memorable experiences were Pope Francis’s visit and the day she met Minority Leader Pelosi.
Rae-Anna learned a tremendous amount about the structure of the US government and professional skills from her internship at the Capitol. She developed close connections with her colleagues. Most importantly, she learned that it takes a special kind of person to be involved in our bureaucratic government, and that she is not that kind of person. However, she now has a much better idea of what areas she wants to pursue professionally. After graduation, she is planning on taking the LSAT and applying to the University of Southern California to study civil rights in sports law. She also wants to take some time to visit her family in the Philippines.
Rae-Anna is integrating the knowledge she has gained in the American Studies Program with her passions and professional experiences in making her plans for the future. She shared her ideas about what has made her time with American Studies so crucial in this planning process:
American Studies allows you to go beyond history to understand how it applies to daily life. That was a huge draw for me because a lot of times we’re just taught “this happened twenty years ago and it’s not relevant now.” But that’s not true. There are so many complicated intersections that make history relevant to everything else. AMS also teaches different methods of analysis. Even if you’re given a data set, you have to be able to analyze the data and think about it in different ways. We have to look at it from a diagonal angle or even backwards. American Studies keeps you sharp.