Student Profile: Rachel Gelina ’20

Mar 20, 2024
Rachel Gelina, class of 2020. She is a long and brown-haired white woman and wears a black jacket with a peach undershirt. She is standing in front of a gray, nondescript background and smiling at the camera.

Rachel Gelina '20.

Rachel Gelina was born and raised in Westfield. After graduating from high school, as a first-generation student, Gelina decided that she needed to explore life outside of the city she’s always known. For her first year in college, she attended Utica College in Utica, New York and played lacrosse. Originally, she’d decided to major in health studies but quickly realized that her interests lay elsewhere and chose to pursue health studies management instead.

In her last semester, Gelina fell in love with economics, but ultimately felt that returning home to Westfield was the best decision for her. Transferring to Westfield State University in her sophomore year, Gelina declared an economics and business management double major, graduating in 2020.

“It was a difficult move,” she said about transferring to the University. “But when I was introduced to my advisor, she was an absolute delight. I loved my experience and undergraduate journey so much that I decided to further my education.”

Now, Gelina is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University. “My professors have made this process a breeze,” she said. “I have incredible professors. I love this program. My biggest fear was working and trying to get a degree, but now that I’m doing it, the sky is the limit. There’s no stopping me.”

 In addition to her studies, Gelina  is executive assistant to the Mayor of West Springfield, William Reichelt. “I took what I learned from business management and economics, and rolled with it to where I am now,” she said. “It’s been so fulfilling, and I do love helping and working with the public, but not in a political role. That’s what I’ve learned in this aspect, and I’ve grown so much from what I learned and from the professors I was blessed to have.”

Despite trials in Gelina’s personal life, Westfield State was there to ease the burden by providing support, a tight-knit community, and being financially accessible. “Financially, I made the best decision for myself,” she said. “I don’t have student loans anymore because of how it turned out.”

Lacrosse was also a prominent theme in her student experience, as she played both at Utica College and Westfield State until the pandemic forced institutions to shut down and limit public access. As COVID-19 spread, her senior year as an undergraduate student was largely spent in digital spaces, though the divergence in her expectations did not keep Gelina from feeling proud of all that she’d overcome and accomplished.

“It was all worth it in the end. Crossing the stage a year after graduation because of the pandemic… I wanted to do that. I was going to do that because it was something I achieved. I did it on my own, and I might as well take pride in it. I have a picture of me with a mask, and I’m just smiling under it. But it’s one of my favorite pictures, because it captures one of the most special moments of my life. I’m a first-generation graduate from college, and I’m proud of that.”