Rachel “Raini” Patteson

Rachel “Raini” Patteson was a perfect fit in higher education. As a soil, environment and atmospheric sciences major at Mizzou, she had great grades, robust research experience and a natural curiosity that sought alternative ways to think about problems.

With these excellent credentials for doctoral programs, she had one problem: She wasn’t sure she wanted to go.

As a senior, Patteson applied for the Fulbright and Gates-Cambridge awards, which would allow her to do master’s degrees abroad. It was her way of testing the waters while building upon the international work she’d done as an undergraduate (a six-month study abroad in South Korea and a month of permafrost research in Siberia). She was named a finalist for each award but received neither. 

The Mizzou-funded Mark Twain Fellowship allowed her to go a one-year program in paleoceanography at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

While she liked much about her experience, she held off on further grad study. She wanted to reconnect with her interests in climate change at the ground level. Literally.

She did volunteer farm work in France for six months before COVID-19 hit. Returning to the U.S., Patteson took a job with an AmeriCorps-funded project through the University of California–Berkeley on regenerative agriculture — how to make farming something that improves soil, carbon capture and ecosystem health.

She’s coming across fascinating challenges that have her thinking again about pursuing a doctoral degree. 

The Mark Twain Fellowship gave her the time and resources to explore her interests organically. 

“I wouldn’t be here without it.”