Meet Rachel Lesser, traveler, artist, and PolicyMic's featured pundit of the week.
As part of the "pundit of the week" blog, we spotlight one PolicyMic-er to share personal experiences with our community, and pose one never-been-asked question to a staff member.
About Rachel: Rachel is a Georgetown University undergrad studying government and psychology.
She spends her free time reading any books she can get her hands on, designing for student theater, writing for her own enjoyment, and planning her next adventure.
Caira Conner (CC): Let’s get started. Tell me about why you decided to join PolicyMic.
Rachel Lesser (RL): I started writing for a magazine almost the minute I stepped onto Georgetown’s campus, and have been working my way up through the ranks to Editor-in- Chief ever since. It made me incredibly curious as to what it would be like to write professionally. Sometimes I like to imagine myself as the writer furiously hacking away on a keyboard, forgetting to eat, sleep or emerge from my lair for the rest of my life. I’m hoping that writing for PolicyMic can shed some light on this illusion (possibly a delusion).
Additionally, I consider myself a pretty opinionated person, and by leaving my opinions open for critique and having people question them, I’m having this amazing experience of getting to question my own beliefs and either reconsider them or solidify my resolve.
CC: You applied and were selected to start writing immediately for PolicyMic, which means you leveled up to pundit immediately. Is there anything you feel you missed out on compared to members of our community who've mic'd/commented their way to pundit status?
RL: Oh, definitely. I’m really learning about PolicyMic as I go. And I think I did miss out on creating rapport with other writers by commenting on their work, as well as just submitting my own articles. As much as I wish I could just spend all of my time writing for PolicyMic, school has been a priority recently. However, as I look to the summer, I hope to be able to dedicate more time to wandering the site and getting the chance to mic and comment more frequently.
CC: You've written for our politics section, but you're also an art and travel lover. Any ideas for unique coverage on the intersection of topics you're most passionate about?
RL: The great, or terrible, thing about politics is that it interacts with all parts of life. On an individual level, I just enjoy painting what I see and scribbling in a sketchbook. But then, when I consider why I fell in love with art in the first place, I inevitably must credit some phenomenal art teachers. And suddenly politics is back in the equation, because I'm advocating for more government funded art programs.
It would be impossible to say what my favorite part of traveling is, but in general, I love exploring cultures that are different from my own. I’m never going to travel somewhere to sit at a hotel and lounge by the pool; I want to see the city, talk to the locals and certainly try the cuisine. In talking with people, you learn about how different their government structures are, or how difficult it is for them to obtain passports and visas and get to experience the same thrill of traveling that I crave and the freedoms I have. Would be great to have more features on these types of topics.
What's been the most challenging aspect of your user experience with PolicyMic?
Fundamentally, the most challenging part of my experience with PolicyMic is just understanding the website. You mentioned earlier that I catapulted over the earlier stages where you really get to feel out PolicyMic. I’ve never seen website set up like this one and it certainly takes some getting used to. I really want to be able to take advantage of all of its unique features.
Honestly, I sometimes feel a bit intimidated by all of the other writers. I’ve done my fair share of stumbling around the site and reading people’s bios and they are, on a whole, pretty impressive. I’m just sitting here typing away in my dorm room, how could I possibly compare?
What is the best possible thing that could result from your using PolicyMic as a platform?
If I’m allowed to wish for anything, the best possible thing would be for someone to stumble across my writing and say, “Hey, we want to hire that girl!” There is certainly no shortage of people who ask (almost daily) what I want to do with my life and what detailed step-by-step plans I have to accomplish that goal. If I could leap frog over the stressful no-man’s land where I am still trying to sort through the mess of finding my passion and resisting the urge to escape away from it all on some obscure island in the Pacific, that’s probably every college student’s dream.
On a more realistic level, I just love the debating! Someone questioning my stance in an article or supporting my opinion equally thrills me. It forces me to really think about an issue from all angles. As soon as someone comments on my work, I go running to a friend, inevitably interrupt the actual work they are doing, and make them debate with me!
Let's go offline. What else do you like to do when you're not PolicyMic-in'?
I’ve always been really passionate about art. Mostly it has been painting or drawing, but lately I’ve channeled my interest into set-designing for student theater. I had a brief flirtation with being on stage, before I quickly realized my place was backstage where I could combine my love of theater and art. It’s really exciting and forces me to consider art from a whole new perspective.
I also try to make time to cook! I used to spend my weekends ripping pages out of magazines and marking up cookbooks, until I discovered the wonders of the internet. I probably have enough recipes to try to last me several lifetimes. Hopefully I just have enough guinea pigs!
Lastly, I really do love traveling. I had this crazy map on my wall with an absurd amount of thumbtacks in it for all of the places I wanted to go. I had to take it down when the number of small holes started to threaten the structural integrity of the wall. If all goes to plan, next year’s articles will be sent in from Morocco!
CC: Your turn. What's one question you have for a member of our staff?
RL: My question is for Laura Donovan. How do you see PolicyMic changing the way we learn about news?
Laura Donovan: PolicyMic focuses on the opinion aspect of news coverage, and I think that's the future of the industry anyway. As Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz noted in so many words when they started this site, millennials want more than just straight news items. We want to be able to share our perspectives and engage with others in thoughtful debate. PolicyMic encourages and fosters that, and I think other news outlets are going to catch on and do the same. I'd like to see major publications like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal let readers have a larger presence in the conversation because that's the future of news, in my opinion. The more opinions we can get, the better. There will always be a demand for straight reporting, which we need, but perspectives should be encouraged, as they influence the way decisions and news are made.
CC: Rachel, thank you for sharing your thoughtful opinions and feedback with the PolicyMic community!