Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Shift from initial pre-med track to music major worth it for senior

Senior Rachel Wishkoski always thought she would become a doctor. Though a heavily devoted musician throughout high school, she considered music as more of a personal activity rather than a professional one. When she came to Whitman as a first-year, she seriously believed that she would be pre-med.

Now, as a graduating senior, she will soon attend Ohio State University Ph.D program for cognitive ethnomusicology.

“Making the decision not to pursue the sciences and medical school was really difficult for me, because it’s something that I’d had in mind for so long,” said Wishkoski. “Music was meaningful to me but it was kind of an extracurricular activity; it was for me as an emotional outlet. It’s frightening to change your mind when you haven’t got a clear idea of what you’re going to do, but in a lot of ways I think it’s been really liberating and really exciting, and looking back I’m really happy about the decisions I’ve made.”

Photo Credit: Marie von Hafften

She believes that Ohio State University’s variety of academic disciplines will combine her diverse interests into a single field of study. While Wishkoski will graduate as a music theory major, she also did a field study with Associate Professor of Anthropology Jason Pribilsky and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Suzanne Morrissey the summer after her sophomore year. In addition, Wishkoski is a biology minor. All the while, she spent her four years under the close tutelage of Dr. Lee Thompson, who helped take her piano performance to the next level.

“Rarely in one’s career do you connect with a student that is as dedicated, disciplined and talented as Rachel, so I’ll treasure the relationship that I had with her for these four years,” said Thompson. “She is absolutely a delight. She has grown tremendously as a pianist : she was talented when she came but she devoted herself and ended up winning a number of awards.”

Wishkoski has similar opinions of Thompson, calling her work with him “the highlight of my Whitman experience,” and stating that he is “an incredible teacher, and an incredible mentor.” With his guidance, she has a clear plan for next year as well as a specific academic emphasis in cognitive ethnomusicology. However, the shift from science to her chosen field took time and soul-searching to discover.

“I definitely did not walk into Whitman one day one saying this is what I’m going to do : I didn’t even know that I was going to be a music major,” said Wishkoski. “I was really into the sciences, and then that kind of shifted when I realized where I was spending most of my time, and that was in the music building.”

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