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Dean's Medalist aims to pursue a path in health law and policy

After graduation, Rachel Cox plans to attend law school and use her language skills to reach underserved populations


SILC's Spring Term Dean's Medalist Rachel Cox
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May 03, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates

Arizona State University recognizes Rachel Cox as this semester's Dean’s Medalist for the School of International Letters and Cultures. The Arizona native is graduating with two degrees, a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish literature and a Bachelor of Science in psychology. She is also a member of Barrett, The Honors College.

Cox began learning Spanish at a very early age. She was exposed to the language in elementary school but didn’t start taking classes consistently until seventh grade at Arizona College Prep. In high school, she started reading Spanish literature through books and poetry.

“I’m someone who loves to read and being able to read in another language was such a cool experience to me. I really wanted to continue that in college, and read all I could and improve my ability,” said Cox, who is fluent in the language.

She made it a goal to complete her undergraduate degree in under three years, an accomplishment she’s very proud of. She took an interdisciplinary approach to college so she could study many different disciplines. 

Cox worked in the Laboratory for Embodied Cognition where she researched reading comprehension interventions for Spanish-speaking families. The lab worked to create Enhanced Moved by Reading to Accelerate Comprehension in English, or EMBRACE, where children play with pictures on an iPad to match what they’re reading. 

Cox measured the brain waves of families that read together. She said it was a great way to blend psychology and Spanish, two subjects she enjoys studying. 

Throughout her college experience, Cox was involved in a wide range of activities, but she still found a way to connect everything so it would set her up for success in her future career in law. After graduation, Cox plans to attend law school and is particularly interested in health care.

She has researched substance use within the health care field through a summer fellowship program, so she hopes to focus on health law and policy. The summer fellowship was through the National Institute for Drug Abuse, and she worked as an intern at the Stanford Medical School before being hired as the research coordinator for the Pain Relief Innovations Lab after her internship ended. 

“It was really good working with patients. That’s something I really enjoy. Working with patients and sort of helping them achieve pain relief is something that is immensely rewarding, so it was a very good experience for me,” Cox said.

In addition to being selected as the spring term Dean’s Medalist for the School of International Letters and Cultures, Cox has also received the New American Scholarship because she was a National Merit Scholarship, the ASU Moeur Award and was recently invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I would say my high school Spanish teachers were very supportive and definitely are the ones that pushed me and inspired me to pursue a Spanish literature degree especially because I love to read so that was a part of it. I also wanted to be a lawyer in the health care sector. I’m very interested in mental health and sort of that field and research as well, so I decided to major in psychology too.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I came into college with the idea or the expectation that you follow a single path through a career. Something that I realized at ASU is that there’s no correct path. Following your interests can be really rewarding and can help you go where you want to go. I’m starting law school in the fall, and there’s this idea that there are certain majors or certain paths that you’re supposed to follow in order to pursue a degree in law. I majored in Spanish literature and psychology and I was part of more health-related labs and literacy labs. I studied multiple different areas and it really worked for me.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I have a connection to Arizona; I grew up here. Both of my parents met at ASU, so I have an extremely strong connection to Arizona. And I really just love what ASU offers. I love the community. I really wanted to go to a big school in order to have more opportunities. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I think it’s not necessarily a class, but I worked in a lab with Professor Emeritus Arthur Glenberg and I was really inspired by his worldliness and all of the stories he collected from his travels and from conferences. I learned how important it is to travel and open yourself up to new experiences. It also showed me the importance of gaining different perspectives and collecting all the stories you can while you’re alive. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan on attending law school in the fall and I hope to become a lawyer in the health care sector. But at law school, I’ll be studying health law and policy. That’s what I hope to focus on.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I’m going to stay on theme here because it’s something that I’m very passionate about. I would solve the problem of health disparities and ensure people get the healthcare resources they need. 

Q: What was your favorite part about taking Spanish classes at the School of International Letters and Cultures?

A: I think the best part about SILC is the faculty and the relationships. Because of the smaller class sizes, the professors were always willing to help me in person and they provided very good feedback on my writing and on my projects. They always wanted to know about who I was as a person or as a human being instead of just a student. The relationships I was able to develop with faculty were something that made my SILC experience stand out. 

Q: How do you plan to integrate your Spanish into your future plans as a lawyer in the health care sector?

A: I feel that my knowledge of Spanish will help me connect with a greater number of people in both the law and health care sectors. Spanish is the second most spoken language here in Arizona, so it’s extremely beneficial to have the tools that allow me to communicate with and better serve this state’s diverse population. It will also allow me to help health care patients who are underserved and who’ve struggled due to the language barrier. For example, my knowledge of Spanish could help me ensure that all changes to health policy are communicated effectively to those who only speak Spanish. 

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