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Rachael Heard Named Inaugural Director of Academic Programming and Student Transitions

DEPARTMENT(S): 
July 21, 2022

Rachael Heard (she/her) has been named the inaugural Director of Academic Programming and Student Transitions at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). She joined the Office of Academic Advising on June 27, 2022.

"Focusing on the experience and success of all our students is a critical element of our strategic plan.  This new role will help us systemically look at how we effectively bridge the transition of our students into higher education and create an environment where all students can thrive.  It is so exciting to have Rachael join the advising team to build this capability within the team because of the breadth of experience she can bring to this role.” - Rachel LeBlanc, Associate VP, Strategic Initiatives

Over the past year, WPI has focused on implementing recommendations from the Mental Health and Well-Being Task Force and the strategic initiatives outlined in the Lead With Purpose: 2021-2026 strategic plan, both of which call for increased attention on enhancing the student experience and assessing academic success. As Director, Rachael will play a key role in developing opportunities for a comprehensive transition and retention model which centers on the needs of our students while advancing success strategies currently underway.

“We are delighted that Rachael has joined the Academic Advising team! Her student-centered advocacy is perfectly aligned with our goal of ensuring every student has the support to be personally and academically successful. In this exciting new role Rachael will have a tremendous opportunity to enhance the transition experience for new students.” - Paul Reilly, Assistant Dean of Student Success

Rachael’s previous role in the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education (ODIME) at WPI focused on elevating the voices of students who are underrepresented in STEM and at WPI through advocacy and support, advancing BIPOC/ALANA student success initiatives, and implementing effective strategies to promote equity and inclusion across the institution.

As the Director of Academic Programming and Student Transitions, Rachael will work with our campus community members to enhance the student onboarding experience by removing institutional barriers related to the college transition. In addition, she will work to redefine and assess academic success, and provide a strategic framework to successfully transition and retain students, particularly BIPOC/ALANA and other underrepresented student populations.

“Ensuring student success is a community-wide effort. It requires us to develop a culture in which faculty, staff, and students alike foster a collaborative environment that encourages students to explore their interests and pursue their passions. I am committed to creating specific conditions that allow students to feel comfortable and courageous, so they can realize their potential and discover their own definition of success. I look forward to continuing my work with campus partners as we strive to enhance the student experience across the institution.” - Rachael Heard, Director of Academic Programming and Student Transitions

Rachael is an alumna of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Biotechnology. She received her Master of Arts degree in Higher Education Administration from Boston College (Chestnut Hill, MA). Outside of her day-to-day office responsibilities, Rachael serves as the Head Coach of the Cheerleading Team at WPI.