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Natasha Rudy '14: Aspiring to be 'That Person'

2013-14 SCICU J. Lacy McLean Independent College Student of the Year

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Natasha Rudy '14, recently named the 2013-14 J. Lacy McLean Independent College Student of the Year by the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Inc., plans to be a genetic counselor.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Natasha Rudy wants to be “that person” – the go-to person.

While it may sound as if the Wofford senior is planning on going into politics, or maybe becoming the CEO of a multinational company, her ambitions are much more basic, but no less important – as basic as the core of life, genetics.

Rudy, who recently was named the 2013-14 J. Lacy McLean Independent College Student of the Year by the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Inc., plans to be a genetic counselor. 

“What draws me toward the profession is knowing that such small changes at the genetic level can impact a family’s life in such a large way,” says Rudy, a native of Greenwood, S.C., where her interest in the field was fueled by high school field trip to the Greenwood Genetic Center, an organization dedicated to “advancing the field of medical genetics and caring for families impacted by genetic disease and birth defects.” 

“These changes are not necessarily caused by parents; they can happen by chance,” Rudy continues. “I want to be the person who is there to help educate families about certain conditions and to connect them to other organizations that can provide support.” 

Rudy, a double major in biology and mathematics who has maintained a 4.0 GP during her academic career at Wofford, plans to seek a master’s degree in genetic counseling after graduation. “At this moment, I’m leaning toward being a clinical genetic counselor. This means I will be able to meet with patients and answer their questions about the origin of a genetic condition, inform them about testing options and connect them with support groups. I will be able to be the person who can soothe someone who is struggling to understand and cope with the implications of a genetic disease or disorder or a birth defect by providing them with answers and a network of support.”

Already a recipient of SCICU’s Sterling L. Smith Scholarship last year, Rudy received her latest honor after being selected from applicants from all 30 private institutions in the organization. She receives a $2,000 scholarship and will be recognized at a luncheon Oct. 1 at Anderson University during the SCICU Fall Board Meeting, which college presidents from around the state will attend.

After interning this summer at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Syntheses, Rudy also is considering expanding her role into research of genetics. “I think by accomplishing this, I will help others by working to gain more information about unanswered questions.”

Wofford has provided her with a good foundation for her aspirations, she says, including the opportunity for the internship, which allowed her to bring “a unique perspective to the table as I pursue a career in genetics. I honestly believe that the opportunities Wofford offers made me a strong competitor for the position, and the skills that I have learned here allowed me to handle the work that my mentor expected. Having that experience this summer showed me that I will be capable of successfully handling graduate-level workloads.”

She already has mastered the ability to immerse herself helping others. She tutors fellow students in genetics and calculus nightly, serves as a Wofford Ambassador, and was selected as a member of the Leadership Team of Wofford’s Orientation Staff. She also serves her community as part of Wofford's Math Academy, a student-run outreach program that gives Wofford students the opportunity to mentor and strengthen the math skills of fourth- and fifth-graders at a local elementary school. “To me, we aren’t just there to review multiplication facts or to reiterate how to do conversions,” she says. “We are there to also show the students that we are one more person who believes that they can overcome the challenges they face. There is nothing more rewarding to me than seeing students’ smiles when they tell us how they did on their last math test, getting a hug from them when we walk in the door, and being able to listen as they confide in us about their latest crushes.”

Rudy adds, “I have learned the importance of reaching out to others, whether they are peers, incoming students or individuals outside of campus. The lessons I have learned through helping others have altered my perspective so that I see not only the benefits for the other person, but also the chance to grow, learn and succeed when I put myself out of my comfort zone or take the opportunity to help someone else.”