To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling three dozen of Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The 35th alumna in our series is Rachel Berger ’11. A political science major at Kenyon, Berger is originally from Mansfield, Ohio, and now lives in Washington, D.C., where she is the finance director for the Shaheen for Senate campaign. Berger has been an active alumni volunteer, currently serves as an alumni member of Kenyon’s Board of Trustees, and was part of the volunteer leadership for Kenyon’s yearlong celebration of 50 Years of Women at Kenyon, helping lead the Kenyon Professional Women’s Network.
Where did you first discover your power?
Luckily, I don’t think I’ve discovered all my powers yet! I’m so lucky to have a wonderful community of friends and family who give me the space and support to explore, learn, and continue creating and discovering my “powers.” If I had to choose, I remember playing “capture the flag” on a summer evening in Ohio with my brothers and the boys in the neighborhood. As I dug through the dirt and ran through the obstacles, I remember thinking, “I can do whatever the boys can do.”
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
Is it cheesy to say everyone?! My classmates and teammates inspired me each and every day. [Former Head Swimming] Coach [Jim] Steen and [Head Swimming Coach] Jess Book ’01 taught me how to test my breaking points and develop a new perspective on hard work. My advisor, Professor [of Political Science] Pamela Camerra-Rowe, infused my life with a love of politics and made me realize the importance of creating and maintaining relationships. I would never have had these opportunities though without my brothers, Jim Berger ’06 and Andy Berger ’08, leading the way to the Gambier hilltop and who continue to inspire me and make me a better person.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I have received much valuable advice from family, friends, former bosses, coaches and mentors over the years. On a professional level, one piece of advice I often repeat to myself is “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.” On a broader life level, I think it would have to be “Just be yourself.”
How has your worldview evolved since leaving Kenyon?
I love the quote by Albert Einstein: “I have no special talent — I am only passionately curious.” Since leaving Kenyon, I’m not shy about asking questions or meeting people and working to understand their perspectives. I think this is what a liberal arts education strives to ignite. One more thing — it really is a small world! Just keep meeting people and you’ll realize it soon enough.
What are your reflections on Kenyon’s year of celebrating half a century of coeducation?
I want to congratulate Julia Tidona ’14 for starting the Kenyon Women’s Professional Network! I've been working with her and the New York City network to extend it in Washington, D.C. Kenyon Ladies are running the world (in so many different industries and in so many ways) and I’m so honored to be part of this distinguished group. I hope we continue to support and learn from each other, and I know the College will continue to showcase our truths and talents. As the swim team cheer states, “Stop, Look, and Listen, here come the Kenyon Ladies!”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Linda Slanec Higgins ’84 H’17
Read about the next woman in our series: Susan Berger ’85