Becky Wai-Ling Packard

Associate Dean of Faculty; Professor of Psychology and Education; Director of the Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership

Specialization
Mentoring; persistence of first-generation for college, low-income, ethnic minorities, and women, particularly in science and technology; career and identity development in adolescence; community-based partnerships; community college transfer pathways and other nontraditional pathways into higher education and workforce

Becky Wai-Ling Packard is a professor of psychology and education and is the Director of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts. At the Weissman Center, she oversees all activities such as student leadership programming and public events, and she is responsible for Teaching and Learning Initiatives including new faculty mentoring. She is interested in the intersection of motivation, identity, and mentoring. She aims, she says, "to understand how young people without easily identifiable role models and mentors in career domains manage to find the mentoring they need and sustain their desired possible selves, or who they hope to become in the future."

Packard's research focuses on mentoring, with an emphasis on how individuals such as first-generation college students, women, and persons of color construct and use mentoring networks and navigate complex pathways toward higher education and work. She frequently speaks on these topics at area colleges, designs mentoring programs (within a college, across colleges in partnerships, or within communities), and offers expert advice on ways to foster a climate in which mentoring all students toward the highest levels of excellence is possible. For example, she recently contributed to a National Academy of Science summit examining the Role of Community Colleges in STEM fields. She also supported the design of a strong peer mentoring infrastructure within a state-wide initiative and she also has given advice to a number of selective liberal arts colleges about their advising programs.

Community-based learning partnerships are an important part of Packard's work. She has designed mentoring programs in the context of her courses that feature partnerships between Mount Holyoke students and area youth from the nearby cities of Holyoke and Springfield. She received the Volunteer of the Year Award from Girls Inc., Holyoke.

As a first-generation college graduate herself, Packard is especially appreciative of how the numerous contexts of home, school, community, and work need to come together to support the educational progress of students. She also strategizes about the ways in which community organizations, workplaces and colleges can support their working students who are trying to make progress in their higher education goals.

Packard's work is supported by the National Science Foundation's CAREER and Gender in Science and Engineering programs. In June 2005, she went to the White House to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government upon early career scientists.

Packard's numerous scholarly articles have been published in such journals as Career Development Quarterly, Mentoring and Tutoring, Journal of Career Development, Journal of College Science Teaching, Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, and the Journal of Adolescent Research.

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