Senior Spotlight: Rachel Sacharin

One of two Honors College Outstanding Senior awardees, Rachel Sacharin, a human development and family science major, said the Honors College helped her grow as a person. Sacharin will speak during the College’s commencement ceremony on Friday.

Rachel Sacharin’s academic journey at the University of Missouri has included some pivots, but there has been one constant throughout her adventure – the Honors College. Sacharin, who is from Southaven, Mississippi, was first connected with the College after being named a Cherng Scholar. Her involvement in Honors didn’t slow at all during her time at MU.

“Some of the best people in my life I met through the Honors College,” Sacharin said. “There are so many people here who have supported me through the ups and downs over the past four years. I appreciate the broad and more specific knowledge I’ve gained through the unique conversations I’ve had with faculty and staff. The Honors College really allowed me to grow as a person.”

Sacharin served as an Honors Ambassador, including a role as an executive member for the Programming Board. That group is responsible for planning social, academic, service and professional development events for Honors students. Sacharin also earned the Humanities Sequence certificate, finishing the four-course series which is focused on big ideas, questions and debates of the Western tradition.

“What I love about Honors is that it attracts professors and people who see the world differently,” Sacharin said. “My professors also see each student as an actual individual, not as their major or a grade. When they see me, they see Rachel, not student No. 19. I had a lot of anxiety coming in and not knowing anyone on campus. I had to navigate quite a bit, and the faculty and staff in the Honors College were always there to guide me.”

Sacharin took four Honors Tutorials as well, including the Extended One Read course in 2019. That year’s One Read was The Great Believers, written by Rebecca Makkai. Sacharin’s Tutorial was taught by Rachel Harper, associate dean of the Honors College and associate teaching professor of English.

Sacharin served the Honors College in various ways, including as an Ambassador. She also earned the Humanities Sequence certificate and is pictured here with Maya Gibson, assistant teaching professor of women’s and gender studies.

“This was my first Honors course, and it was probably one of my favorite classes that I took during my time at MU,” Sacharin said. “Dr. Harper was incredible to work with and I learned so much from her. It was a great way to begin my Honors journey.”

Service has been at the heart of a lot of Sacharin’s interests while at Mizzou. Along with serving her fellow Honors students, she was the executive director of Caring for Columbia this past year. Caring for Columbia is focused on helping the entire Columbia community through various projects.

“I fell in love with everything that Caring for Columbia stands for,” Sacharin said. “It’s really important for MU students to get out in the community, and this organization allows us to serve in a meaningful way.”

Sacharin was just 15 years old when she made the decision to attend the University of Missouri. She applied to Mizzou before she ever officially stepped on campus, and once she did tour MU, she knew it was going to be the place for her.

“Mizzou was actually the only school I applied to,” Sacharin said. “Once I finally had the chance to see the campus, it was a done deal. There were some discussions about looking at other colleges, but I really didn’t see the point. I was going to be a Tiger.”

Sacharin already had a degree program in mind when she was 15 years old, too. She chose the human development and family science degree, with an emphasis in child life. While Sacharin will graduate with a different emphasis focus – changing to family and lifespan development – the degree has allowed her to dive deeper into questions that were important to her.

“I was interested in learning about how we take the hospital setting and make it appropriate for children,” Sacharin said. “This isn’t a world they choose to be in or really understand. How do you tell a 4-year-old that they have cancer? How do you explain to an 8-year-old that their parents are sick? Those type of conversations are interesting to me.”

Sacharin’s interest in this subject matter came from personal experience. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer when Sacharin was just 10, and a child life specialist met with her to discuss everything happening.

“I learned a lot through that process,” Sacharin said. “I didn’t really understand what was going on, but there were people who talked me through everything. They were tough conversations, but it was very helpful to have someone explain what was happening.”

Sacharin worked in the MU Child Development Laboratory throughout her time at Mizzou.

As Sacharin got more involved in her degree program, she quickly realized that she had a passion for working with children. While she knew she wanted her career path to follow that road in some capacity, her time at Mizzou solidified that desire. She had a job in the Child Development Laboratory all four years at MU.

“It was a lot of work, but it was so rewarding,” Sacharin said. “I built bonds with the kids there and really loved every minute.”

All of Sacharin’s experiences have brought her to the next step of her academic journey. After graduation, she will take a week off and then start nursing school through the Sinclair School of Nursing’s accelerated program

“I always enjoyed medicine, but I couldn’t handle needles or blood early on, so I decided against trying for a nursing degree,” Sacharin said. “I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2020 and quickly got over all of that. I’m very excited to now be pursuing a nursing degree – and I appreciate how excited everyone in the Honors College was when I told them I had been accepted into the program.”

Sacharin said she is primarily interested in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or pediatric nursing.

“I love working with babies,” Sacharin said. “I will probably start in pediatrics and gain experience there, which is really exciting to me. Plus, my degree will come into play in a big way in that realm. It puts a nice bow on everything I’ve done as an undergraduate student.”