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Q&A: McDaniel College alumna Heidi Reigel on her new position, her time at the school, sports' role in her life

McDaniel College named Heidi Reigel as its new associate vice president for alumni and admissions after she worked 23 years in the admissions office.

After graduating in 1997, Reigel stuck around and worked as an admissions counselor the same year. She worked up the ladder and became the director of admissions at McDaniel in 2010 and became the dean of admissions in 2019.

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Reigel, who was referred to as a champion of access and affordability in higher education in a news release from McDaniel, has built relationships with community-based organizations across the country, including the Maryland-based CollegeTracks, and helped to implement The Baltimore Initiative, which has grown McDaniel’s population of students of color. The former Green Terror basketball player helped recruit student-athletes and grow the legacy scholarships of $100,000 over four years for children of educators, military personnel, and alumni.

She was named the College Admissions Counselor of the Year by The Potomac and Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling in 2004 and she is also very involved with outreach. Reigel worked with Colleges That Change Lives by serving on their speakers' bureau and presenting on access to families around the country.

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The Times recently caught up with Reigel to discuss her new promotion and how her career and responsibilities expanded over time.

Q: What does it mean to you to be the new associate vice president for alumni and admissions?

A: I am excited about this new position as it allows me to continue to build upon the relationships that I have fostered over the years. After graduating from the college, I joined the Admissions Office where I’ve been recruiting students to McDaniel for the last 23 years. Throughout this time, I have been able to form relationships with many of these students that have extended beyond their four years at the college. The importance of relationships was instilled in me as a kid and it’s central to who I am as a person. This position allows me to not only represent new members to our Green Terror family, but also to engage with our alumni community. Our alumni base is amazing and full of incredible stories. It warms my heart to hear from them and learn about their time on the Hill.

Q: How has your responsibilities changed or grown since being an admissions counselor in the 90s?

A: When I started in 1997, I was given a recruitment territory, AAA maps, a rental car and was told to go find some students to attend McDaniel. I literally would take brochures EVERYWHERE and talk to anyone about McDaniel’s student-centered approach. Now, I have the honor of overseeing the entire undergraduate and graduate admissions team and financial aid operation. I truly am just the conductor of the orchestra – we have amazing staff in both of these areas who are focused on helping students determine college fit and working to navigate them through the financial aid process. And, today, our admissions counselors have cell phones with navigation apps and a recruitment territory that they can reach via email and text. Because of electronic messaging, we work as a team to be strategic with our messages. The challenges of keeping up with all of the changes in the admissions landscape can be daunting, but our team is so flexible and knows that every decision we make is in the best interest of our applicants (aka future Green Terrors.)

Q: What are your goals for this position?

A: One of my goals is to create more Green Terror spirit at the point of admission. We want our students to be PROUD to attend McDaniel. Additionally, I am working with our Alumni Engagement Team to expand the alumni mentorship component of the McDaniel Commitment, which is a signature part of our curriculum that guarantees every student at least two experiential opportunities by the time they graduate. We also will continue to bring programming to alumni to help them stay connected to the Hill.

Q: You’re an alumna of the college. What is it about McDaniel that made you stick around?

A: The people. Definitely, the people. There are folks who were in the Admissions Office when I started and I consider them family members and we are close to this day — even though many of them have moved on professionally. I feel that my role has allowed me to develop new working relationships with so many others on campus and it excites me that we all want what is best for our students … who will become alums!

Q: I read that you contributed to the growth of students of color at McDaniel. Why is it important for college campuses to be racially diverse?

A: This was a total team effort and was a vision that the college had in the early 2000s. College campuses need to reflect the real world — offering students exposure to different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Building relationships with people who don’t look and think exactly the way you do allows for a huge mindset growth, allowing for great collaboration and a better understanding of the world.

Q: I also read you are a champion of access and affordability. Could you talk about the ways McDaniel makes a college education more accessible?

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A: I have had the opportunity to work directly with community-based organizations across the country like CollegeBound, Collegiate Directions, CollegeTracks, First Generation College Bound, etc, and our admissions and financial aid teams present at workshops, helping students who may not have support at home navigate the college admissions process. It’s so important to me because I am a first-generation college student and I was fortunate to have amazing support from my parents and my high school counselor. I cannot even imagine the hard responsibilities that today’s students are juggling while applying to colleges. Our team has always worked hard to take the anxiety out of the admissions process. In fact, unlike other colleges that realized they were going to have to re-examine their SAT/ACT requirements for admissions this year due to the pandemic, we did not have to make any changes to our admissions process since we have proudly been test- optional since 2001.

Q: Do you still play basketball? Or is that a thing of the past?

A: My last stint playing basketball in any organized league was in the Carroll County women’s league at East Middle with my wonderful teammates from college. We had so much fun and won the championship a few times — the funny thing is that I never had the chance to play in the championship games because they were always the same day our admissions team was hosting our Admitted Student event. Sports are a huge part of my life — my boys are fanatics and I can be roped in to playing soccer or slapping a hockey puck around. Most importantly, the takeaways from sports have served me throughout my life. My coaches were inspirational. They challenged me to be a leader and counted on me to choose to do the right things as I led high school, AAU, and college teams on and off the court. Preparing for a game is the same as prepping for a meeting, we have game plan meetings for our events, and you have to practice. That is what makes you successful. And most of all, I learned to seize every opportunity and play on the strengths of my teammates, building the fiercest team ever!

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