Rachel Schaevitz, KLN '14, was recently elected to Town Council in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Schaevitz follows the record number of women running, and being elected into office following the 2016 presidential election and the Women's Marches across the country.
Schaevitz graduated from New York University with a degree in film studies in December 2001. She moved to China for one year to teach English. Upon returning to the United States, Schaevitz attended Boston University and obtained her master's degree in film studies in 2007. She then earned her doctorate in media and communication from Klein College in 2014.
Her dissertation, "Without words: The use of an image-based instructional video to convey information to culturally diverse audiences," focused on how much information viewers can take in during purely visual media.
Schaevitz teaches for the Communication department as a postdoctoral scholar for the public humanities at the University of North Carolina.
Before the election, Schaevitz said her involvement in politics was more superficial than anything else.
"I canvassed for Obama in New York City...I paid attention, but wasn't an activist," Shaevitz said. "I was also involved in school politics in high school."
Schaevitz began her political career by serving as the chairperson of the American Legion Task Force—an organization that opens a conversation with the public, determining its land.
Her appreciation for the arts also helped her get appointed to the Town of Chapel Hill's Cultural Arts Commission. Throughout her undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, Schaevitz studied film and wanted to bring her outside creativity to her town.
Schaevitz's inspiration to run for political office wasn't until she attended the Women's March in 2017 at Raleigh, North Carolina with her neighbors. She went with a couple of her neighbors and was in awe of the tens of thousands of attendees.
"We made a pact to channel our feeling of frustration with the government we didn't agree with towards a positive outcome," said Schaevitz.
After brainstorming a plan with her two neighbors, Schaevitz announced her campaign in June 2017. The five months of campaigning that followed were rewarding, difficult and inspirational for Schaevitz.
"We're not the classic type to run for local office," Schaevitz said. "I'm a mom, I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old, I work a full-time job, my husband works a full-time job. [Running for office] was something we had to make space for."
Schaevitz knew that many of the people she would turn to for help also had busy schedules and was able to find the help she needed with just small favors.
"We found ways [for people] to contribute in small ways," Schaevitz said. "[People] just did one percent of what we needed and when you found 100 people doing one percent, that's 100 percent. It was relying on a bigger amount of people to do a small amount of work each."
Schaevitz praised the smaller moments of her campaign that helped it to feel like a success, like inspiring her daughter and being recognized as an elected official at the 2018 Women's March exactly one year after beginning the journey. She also hopes Chapel Hill will continue to excel in sustainability.
"Local government is a much purer form of representative government," said Schaevitz. "I didn't have to go far to find out what people wanted."