Rachael Baitel '14
Panama City, Panama
Rachael Baitel says she was “a complete bunhead” when she came to Princeton, which is dance-speak for a ballet enthusiast. She devoted many of her after-school hours to ballet growing up in Panama City.
“Coming to Princeton, I knew it wasn’t something I could keep up because it takes so much time,” she says. “You have to devote so much of your body and time to ballet for it to be good.” But she was not willing to give up dance entirely. She sought other dance opportunities, and among the many available at the University, she chose eXpressions, a small company of about 25 dancers. “It seemed like a perfect combination of a great family, a great group of girls and great dancing,” she says. “We mostly do lyrical, contemporary and modern dance.”
Baitel has thrived in eXpressions, which performs two of its own shows each year and dances at a number of other campus events. As president of the dance company, she is in charge of scheduling, ticketing and publicizing events.
The troupe also has provided an entrée to other arts-related activities. She is president of the Princeton Performing Arts Council, which serves as the liaison between more than 30 student arts organizations and the University administration. As president, she presides over the executive board meeting, elections, and oversees all initiatives and programs related to the arts council.
She also is very active in the Sustainable Fashion Initiative, a student organization that promotes sustainable fashion choices for consumers. “We’re spreading awareness that the choices you make in what you wear also determine your impact,” she says. Examples of such choices include everything from shopping at consignment stores to supporting manufacturing processes that reduce a plant’s carbon footprint through the use of solar panels or sustainable architecture.
Baitel, who has worked as a model in Panama, helps coordinate two fashion shows on campus. One, organized by a student group called Service in Style, uses the proceeds to support a foundation for autistic children; the other exhibits sustainable designs and fabrics. “So in the first instance, fashion is a means to an end, raising money for this incredible foundation,” she says. “In the second, the sustainable fashion initiative, fashion is the end.”
In addition to feeding her passions for the arts, fashion and service, Princeton has allowed Baitel to explore her interests in politics, which is her major, as well as language and Latin American studies. Her primary languages are English and Spanish, but she also is adept at French and Portuguese. She exercised some of her language skills in the summer following her freshman year, when she traveled to France and studied archeology at the University of Bordeaux. That same summer, she went to Cambodia to research human trafficking in the sex trade.