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Meet The Class of 2016

Rachel Rolnick, Stern College for Women

Students of all ages and backgrounds come to Yeshiva University to pursue a range of professional and personal dreams, from scientific research and medicine to law, Jewish education and the creative arts. Our students seek to harness their unique talents and YU education to make a lasting impact on the world around them. This spring, when they graduate, these new alumni will hit the ground running.

In the weeks leading up to Commencement, YU Newswill feature one remarkable graduate from each school, reflecting on their time here, their passions and their dreams for the future.

Meet the Class of 2016.

Portrait of Rachel Rolnick, a gradauting student in Stern College who was accepted into many Law SSchools, including Yale.

Next year, Stern College for Women graduate Rachel Rolnick will be headed to one of the top law schools in the country to lay the foundations for a career in human rights law or government and public policy work. But when she first arrived at Stern, the Teaneck, New Jersey, native had never envisioned herself as a lawyer. It wasn’t until she took Comparative United States and Talmudic Law, an only-at-YU course taught by Stern alumna Dr. Adina Levine, that she discovered her passion for legal discourse.

“I just loved every minute of that course,” she said. “I realized I had to explore my interest further.”

Rolnick was also deeply influenced by Politics and Shakespeare, taught by Dr. Matt Holbreich, resident scholar at The Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought. “It not only taught me the beauty and significance of Shakespeare's works but transformed my entire worldview,” she said. “The philosophy set forth in the works we discussed in class is timeless.”

As a history major with a minor in political science, Rolnick was fascinated by the way philosophies and events from the past continued to be relevant and applicable to today’s breaking news cycle. Her senior thesis focused on the development of the concept of human rights—a topic Rolnick spent a lot of time thinking about this past year as the International Criminal Chair at YU’s National Model United Nations (YUNMUN), an annual competition run by YU students that brings together high school students from around the world for an interactive simulation of the inner workings of the United Nations.

“I participated in YUNMUN for three years and made some of the most meaningful memories of my YU experience there,” said Rolnick. “It’s a great opportunity for like-minded students to get together and talk about world issues and meet people you might not meet otherwise. As a the criminal court chair this year, I dealt with human rights violations—for example, we had a case that revolved around human organ trafficking, which really played right into my thesis, as well.”

For Rolnick, these kinds of opportunities had an important role in her decision to attend YU. “I had a lot of options, but I knew that here I could shine and achieve anything I wanted. That really turned out to be true—not just with YUNMUN, but in the way I was able to become so involved in the student government and form close relationships with faculty who continue to guide me.”

As president of the Stern College for Women Student Council, Rolnick had the chance to see many of her ideas and passions become realities. Exploring her strengths and weaknesses as a leader was a defining part of her college experience—and helped her develop the confidence and determination to emerge from the rigorous law school application process with acceptances to a number of top-tier schools.

Still, for Rolnick, the moments of greatest satisfaction came from stepping back and watching a dream take shape.

“The best moment is when you’re standing on the sidelines of a program you invested months and months of hard work and planning into and watching it unfold,” she said. “For example, seeing 800 students having a great time at Chanukahfest, which we completely revamped this year, or joining a sea of Stern women dancing at the Yom Ha’atzmaut chagiga. Times like these—when the streets are filled with Yeshiva University students celebrating together—really exemplify that feeling of ‘nowhere but here.’ ”