Meet Rianda Wenther: Our January Leading Woman
Name: Rianda Wenther
Major: Political Science & Political Communication Minor: Peace Studies
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
What are your career/life goals?
This is a great question; I’m still trying to narrow it down myself! I know I definitely want to do something in politics and law. I plan to take time off after I graduate from Mizzou and before I go to law school so I can work for a little bit. I’m really interested in policy, advocacy, and legislative work, so working on a campaign or as a legislative assistant or policy strategist is the goal! Eventually, I plan to attend law school and from that, who knows what I’ll do. My dream is to practice law in politics and either work as legal counsel for a politician or the Department of Justice or be a civil rights attorney for the ACLU (like RBG!!). At the end of the day, I hope to effect positive change and correct the injustices in our society and working at the intersection of law and politics is how I’ll do so!
What is your favorite part about your majors and why did you choose them?
My passion for politics is longstanding and ever since high school I have dedicated myself to pursuing a career in politics and law, so majoring in political science and political communication was a no-brainer for me. I felt that these majors, combined with my minor in peace studies, would provide me with the knowledge, skills, and experience that will set me up for success in law school and my future political endeavors. The content and coursework of the majors has to be my favorite part - it aligns so well with my interests! Dissecting Supreme Court cases and legal arguments, studying social movements and the ebb and flow of political polarization throughout history might seem boring to most, but to me it's enlightening and makes me feel like I’m engaging in a hobby rather than schoolwork.
Why did you decide to get involved in the Political Communication Institute?
I initially got involved in Mizzou’s Political Communication Institute (PCI) to learn more about the academic research process and gain valuable research skills. Beyond that, I saw it as a great opportunity to learn more about political communication and what the field entails. At the time, the PCI staff was performing and publishing really unique research on the 2016 election and I knew I wanted to be a part of that moving forward. I’m very interested in politics, so being a part of groundbreaking research and seeing first-hand the role communication plays in elections and debates is something not too many people have the opportunity to do.
What is your favorite part about the PCI?
The opportunities! The people! The research! All of the above. I’ve gotten to work under some of the nation’s leading political communication and presidential debate experts which is something I’m beyond grateful for. I met my mentor, Dr. Benjamin Warner, through the PCI and we are actually collaborating right now on a research paper that focuses on the presidential primary debates in 2020. I even got to travel to Iowa for the 2020 presidential caucuses with the PCI! Working under and learning from the PCI’s highly accomplished faculty all while researching topics that are in tune with my passions has been the most rewarding aspect of this experience.
What other organizations or hobbies are you passionate about?
On campus, I also serve as a justice on the Peer Review Board in the Office of Student Accountability and Success. A lot of the work I perform on the side centers around my passion for social justice and politics. I’ve been working for a criminal defense attorney here in Columbia for some time and I recently worked as a public policy intern for the Missouri ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). I really enjoyed this internship and got to perform meaningful work throughout Missouri on issues like juvenile justice reform, the school-to-prison pipeline, and voting rights. When I’m not busy with school or work, I love to work out, hammock, and read!
How have your experiences in Theta changed you?
Coming to Mizzou, I wasn’t too sure about the whole sorority thing. Even my freshman year I was still deciding if it was for me, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Theta has given me my lifelong best friends, role models, and the best support system. I feel lucky to be surrounded by so many strong and inspiring people who have pushed me to be the best version of myself. Not to mention, I can be unapologetically myself in Theta. I could not have asked for a better experience.
What does Theta mean to you?
To me, Theta is so well-rounded and unique. Every individual has their own passions, interests, and goals yet we all can come together, find common ground with one another, and connect; it is truly such a special bond that Theta cultivates.
Do you have any advice for the underclassmen?
Be open to change and trust that everything will work out in the end. Over the past few years, I’ve had to do a lot of adjusting and come to terms with the fact that things might not work out as you had planned. I felt defeated, disappointed in myself, and lost a sense of who I was because it seemed like everything, I had planned for myself was upended. It took me a while to realize that everything really does happen for a reason and now, I am so grateful to be where I am today having had the experiences, I’ve had the past couple of years. It’s okay to be upset but find comfort in the fact that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. Life’s like chutes and ladders, especially at this age; sometimes you’ll go up, sometimes you’ll move sideways, and sometimes you’ll go down. The length of your journey and the obstacles thrown your way don’t take away from who you are as a person.
Do you have a specific favorite Theta memory?
Living in house has to be my favorite Theta memory as a whole! I lived in a four-person room both semesters and had some of the best times of my college years there. Living in house is also what brought me to the best friends I have today and helped me find my home at Mizzou. From getting ready on game days, all-nighters spent studying and goofing around, and the time we didn’t know there was a wasp nest right outside our window and accidentally let a whole swarm in our room. Living in house was no doubt memorable but in the best way possible!