Personal history a challenge for non-traditional student

April 29, 2013

PLAINVIEW – It’s not very often an undergraduate is published in a professional, peer-reviewed journal. Then again, it’s not very often you run across an undergraduate like Rachel Laue (pronounced Law).

This fall, Laue’s paper “Fighting the Cold War at a Baptist College: Anti-communism in the Wayland Baptist College Trailblazer,” will be published in the West Texas Review, the journal for the West Texas Historical Association that is based at Texas Tech University.
“It’s not often that an undergraduate can even get a paper considered for publication, much less published,” Laue said.

The history major from Great Falls, Mont., wrote the paper for her historical methods class, looking at anti-communist sentiment in the college newspaper during the cold war. At that time, college campuses were typically more politically involved than they are today. As a result, Laue found no shortage of opinions being published in the Trailblazer, Wayland’s student newspaper.

“They were probably more opinionated than a newspaper staff should be,” Laue said. “There were some pretty considerable biases in their articles.”

While Laue found looking at the history of Wayland fascinating, it was her own history that almost kept her from attending college. By every definition of the word, Laue is a non-traditional student, although you wouldn’t know it unless she told you.

“I didn’t go to college at age 18 like everyone else,” she said. “I was 22 when I came here. It hasn’t really been awkward for me because I blend in. I look young.”

Being the first member of her immediate family to attend college, Laue was on her own to find the right fit. It was only in a last-ditch Internet search that she found a school that was affordable and offered everything she was looking for in a university.

Born in Missouri, Laue spent her childhood moving back and forth between Missouri and Montana, on nearly a yearly basis. The second of four children, Laue said the constant movement and being home-schooled made it hard to make friends.

“There were a lot of places we lived where I didn’t know anyone. We didn’t go to school, so we didn’t meet people. A lot of places we lived, I only knew my family. That was it,” she said.

Laue explained that her family moved so much partly to look for work and partly because “they were just restless souls.” She said her family was poor and everyone had to work to make ends meet. That meant she had to stay at home and help raise her younger brother and sister.

“I was my siblings caretaker for about nine years, until they were old enough be left alone,” she said.

At the age of 22 Laue finally had a chance to do something she wanted to do – go to college. She began looking in the south – to find a warmer climate, she said – for a faith-based college.

“I decided I would like to go to a Christian college. I didn’t want to deal with having a drunken roommate at 4 o’clock in the morning. Which may or may not happen. …,” she grinned.

Being raised a Baptist, she was looking for Baptist schools first, but the expense of private education was keeping her from finding a suitable school.

“Private institutions are usually really pricey,” Laue said. “I had almost given up and finally, just one last Google search and Wayland came up. I hadn’t seen it in any other search I had done. I think I just put in Baptist Colleges and there it was.”

The next fall, Laue started college as a 22-year-old freshman. She found enough funding to pay for school and chose to live in the dorm with the younger students.

“There were still people around my age,” she said. “I was 22 and 23 and there were still a lot of seniors and older students around. My junior year was the first one where I thought, ‘they are so young.’ There started to be a significant gap.”

Laue’s junior year was also the year she fell victim to a mysterious illness that ended up forcing her to stay home for the entire spring 2012 semester. The onset of the illness, the main symptom of which was extreme exhaustion, was in the fall of 2011 when she missed an entire month of classes.

“I got really sick. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong,” Laue said. “I did kind of rally enough to finish the semester, but when I went home, the doctor said I couldn’t come back to school.”

Laue returned in the fall of 2012, but still feels the effects of the illness.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stay because I felt so bad,” she said. “I have been doing better this semester. I’m not sure what the difference is. I’m a medical anomaly, apparently.”

Laue picked up where she had left off the previous year. She serves as a President’s Ambassador, an elite group of students hand-picked to represent the Office of the President and the Offices of Advancement at various functions on and off campus. She also has been named to several academic honor societies and was selected this fall to represent the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences as its research champion.

Laue plans to graduate in December and then continue her education in graduate school studying history and archeology. She has a heart for missions and hopes to one day visit the “deepest, darkest jungles of Africa.” An historian by choice, Laue is a writer by nature. She has always been interested in journalism and considered majoring in it before deciding to focus on history. A member of the Sigma Tau Delta literary honor society, Laue pursues creative writing as a hobby. Just don’t ask her about her poetry.

“I don’t do poetry. My poetry is really bad,” she said. “April is a poem-a-day month. I’ve been trying to do that and it is horrible.”

Still, she is currently writing a western, a fantasy story and a “Bridgett Jones” type novel about being a single girl. … And she says she didn’t inherit her parents “restlessness.”
“Maybe I’m a little free-spirited,” Laue laughed. “It just manifests itself a little differently.”

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