Rachel Morris, 20, is a junior at the University of Maryland, where she’s an English major and a philosophy minor. She grew up in the Kemp Mill area and attended Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville. When Rachel isn’t writing, singing or acting, she’s volunteering with a pet adoption agency.
How did you get into philosophy?
I took my first philosophy class during my first semester of college, and really liked it. But I really fell in love with philosophy, though, when I took a philosophy of the environment class last year. It was so interesting to take these philosophical considerations and apply them to policy.
We talked about giving moral consideration to animals, weighing animal welfare over environmental integrity and biodiversity, the importance of preserving ecosystems, population ethics. I’d taken environmental classes before, but I’d never taken philosophical considerations into account. I think I want to go in the direction of environmental philosophy with my minor. It’s a way for me to combine climate advocacy and philosophy, and I think it’s really important to consider ethics when you’re making environmental policies. There are a lot of different factors to weigh, and it’s not always objective.
Where do you volunteer?
I volunteer at Lucky Dog Rescue, where I help run dog adoption events. Volunteers engage with passersby to try and get interest, answer questions and keep an eye on their dog to make sure the dog’s not getting overwhelmed by the crowd or overheating or anything like that. I get a sheet with information about the dog I’m handling so I can share information with potential adopters who are interested in the dog.
My favorite dog so far was Loki. He was this really sweet, cute little dog. It was really hot out and he didn’t have a lot of energy, so I just laid with him in the shade. He went home with a new owner that day!
What is your creative writing style?
I mainly write short-form fiction and poetry. This semester, I’m actually taking a screenwriting class. It’s my first experience with screenwriting. I’ve done monologues, playwriting and, right now, I’m writing an original pilot for a TV show. It’s super fun and I’d never done this type of writing style before, so the class made me realize how much I like it. I think it would be super cool to work on a production team for a screenplay. Even if I’m not writing or directing, there’s so many other ways to help out, like staging, lighting, sound design.
What do you sing?
I absolutely love singing, especially karaoke nights with my friends. My go-to is anything from the “Mamma Mia” soundtrack, Queen, Amy Winehouse or “Esa Einai” by the Miami Boys Choir. I’ve always loved performing. I used to make my family gather in the living room and listen to me sing a song I just wrote, or watch while I performed an original play.
One of my best friends is into music production and introduced me to these apps where you can produce songs super easily on your phone. I use this one app called Bandlab to record with virtual instruments, use loop pads to make beats and import vocal tracks. On Bandlab, multiple users can collaborate on one song, so sometimes I’ll send her a song I’m working on and she’ll add to it, or vice versa. It’s super fun, I always love seeing what she adds.
What fuels your creativity?
I guess I have a pretty expansive imagination and I like to ask a lot of questions. My advice to people is to ask questions — it’s the best thing you can do. You might be the first person to ask that question. You might be the first person to prompt an answer.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
I have a lot of favorite holidays, but Chanukah is really special to me. Since it’s not a yontif [when the Torah mandates Jews to rest] you still go to work, or school or wherever. But then you get to come home and have this really nice moment where you take a break from your normal routine to light the chanukiyah. I also love seeing everyone’s chanukiyahs in their windows when I’m walking by, it’s really beautiful.