by Olivia Nicoletti
Sami Wheeler was a sophomore in high school when her sister began her freshman year at Rider University. During her visits, she was introduced to the small community that the Lawrenceville campus provided. Years later, she followed in her sister’s footsteps and decided to go to the same school.
“When I attended Admitted Students Day I fell in love with the opportunities that the education department had,” the senior secondary education and mathematics double major said. “I was able to meet some of the professors and through that short visit I had I could already tell of their dedication to teaching.”
Wheeler does not describe herself as someone very involved during her high school career. However, when she came to Rider, opportunities opened up and she grabbed at everything that came her way. By the time she finished out her freshman year, she had become a member of the Student Education Association, got a job in the Office of Career Development and Success, joined the sorority Zeta Tau Alpha and joined the STEM program.
Within her first year of being a member of her sorority, she had the opportunity to serve on their programs council as the house beautification chairman.
“I originally expected to just be a general member and was not planning on applying for any leadership positions,” Wheeler said. “However, I saw all of these opportunities that really interested me and made me want to get involved. I realized that joining these committees would provide me with an outlet for creativity which is something that I did not get from anything else I was involved in.”
From then on, Wheeler continued her involvement in Zeta Tau Alpha by gaining the position of a historian on their executive committee where she was in charge of their social media accounts. Her leadership influenced others around her to get involved as well. Junior psychology major Lauren Farley has had Wheeler’s mentorship as her big for almost two years now.
“Beyond being my best friend, she has guided me through experiences and pushed me to be better every day,” Farley said. “Watching Sami accomplish so many amazing things is really inspiring and motivates me to work hard to reach my potential. I feel extremely blessed to have her in my life.”
Her leadership goes further than just her sorority. Wheeler has been a new student orientation leader for the past two years. Before she officially started at Rider, she was reaching out for advice from her orientation leaders who helped her so much. Wheeler knew she wanted to help other new students just as her orientation leaders did for her.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sami for the past two years as an orientation leader. Her leadership style appears effortless — she has strong communication skills, leads with integrity and has a huge heart. Everything she did as an orientation leader traced back to her internal motivation to help others be their best selves,” said Director of Transition Programs Christine Mehlhorn. “I’ve seen how Sami’s magnetic personality attracts so many new students, she is wonderful at making sure everyone is included, and she serves as an incredible mentor to them as she is not only an excellent student but is involved in many different aspects of campus life.”
Graduate assistant for Transition Programs Lauren Mee said, “Sami brought a lot of good energy to the team. Right away we knew she would relate well to the new students and be someone they would feel comfortable opening up to. She represented Rider well as an [orientation leader] and continues to do the same as a student leader.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, her second year as an orientation leader was moved online. This caused a challenge for her and her team.
“Going into our second year of being orientation leaders was hard, but Sami did such an amazing job with transitioning to an online format. She was always coming up with super creative ideas to keep students engaged and to get them excited to come to Rider,” senior musical theatre major Madeline Kunkowski said. “She also has such an outgoing and fun personality, and always made students feel welcome and at ease, even when we were online.”
Wheeler has been inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta, Kappa Delta Pi, Order of Omega and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. She has also served as a supplemental instructor and first-year seminar peer mentor. She currently serves as a content tutor, peer coach for the Student Navigation Office, as a GLASS mentor, is the active social media chairman for Rider Math Club (@RiderMathClub on Instagram) and is officially considered a STEM scholar.
“Education is so important and if I can be a part of bettering somebody’s personal experience then all of the hard work is worth it,” Wheeler said. “It is so rewarding to be both gaining teaching skills and being able to watch students find success in their time here at Rider.”
“I feel as though I found a way to balance everything and find the best opportunities for my time at Rider,” Wheeler said. “I want everyone to know that it is worth it to get involved, put yourself out there and do as much as possible.”