Feature Stories Alumni: UMassD’s Rita Wang ’09 makes family her priority as a versatile professional

Headshot photo of Rita Wang
Now a learning and development specialist at Babson College, Rita Wang '09 spends her days motivating others to learn. (Photo: Rose Wine Photography)
Feature Stories Alumni: UMassD’s Rita Wang ’09 makes family her priority as a versatile professional
UMassD’s Rita Wang ’09 makes family her priority as a versatile professional

Even as her life’s priorities shifted, Wang’s human resources management degree gave her a particular set of adaptive skills that allowed her to succeed, from consulting to higher education.

Growing up, Rita Wang ’09 never forgot the Tale of the Starfish, a parable that defined her mentality on life forever. There was something Wang loved about the story of a young girl walking along the beach’s shore, picking up thousands of stranded starfish in sight, and tossing them back into the ocean. When the little girl’s motives were questioned by onlookers who noticed how the starfish outnumbered her, she threw another in the water and said, “Well, I made a difference for that one!” Inspired by her reply, other beach-goers joined in her efforts to instill widespread change, one starfish at a time.

The little girl’s acts of kindness in the tale resonated with Wang as she blossomed into a scholar with a hunger for knowledge, creating a “save the world” mentality that drove her to academic success and fostered unforgettable social connections. As someone who constantly searched for the “why” in all things as a young pupil, Wang said, “When I was in high school, I was very close to the teachers and staff there. Originally, I set out to study psychology at UMass Dartmouth, but one of my teachers pulled me aside and told me she thought I’d make a better business major.

For what it was worth, I looked to see if any majors in the Charlton College of Business (CCB)v aligned with what I loved about psychology,” she continued. At the time, Wang’s priority was to be just like the little girl in the Tale of the Starfish and cause a massive change in society by impacting one person at a time through the field of psychology. However, her vision of the future shifted after that conversation.

“That feedback helped me in the long run because I ended up switching my major to human resources management when I started college,” Wang said. “My main goal used to be to save the world, and I wanted to use my UMassD degree to do just that.”

Wang discovered that more than just a high-quality education awaited her at UMass Dartmouth.  As she embarked on her post-collegiate journey that led her to a fulfilling career across four different industries, she realized she wanted to make a difference for all, especially the family she started at UMassD.

Sparks fly for Wang at UMassD

Ever the curious-minded student at UMass Dartmouth, Wang always asked questions whenever she could and loved to learn from the classroom and extracurricular experiences offered to her as a student. She was part of the Honors College and explored CCB’s limitless academic resources, including helpful faculty and staff who worked tirelessly to ensure she was successful in her professional career.

“As someone who was part of the Honors College and CCB, it was nice knowing that professors were easily accessible,” Wang said. “If I needed extra help, they were always there to talk and guide me through certain assignments. As I progressed into my final years, I had some of those professors as repeats, so some of them I got close to, like Dr. Kellyann Kowalski, Dr. Steve White, and Dr. Kathleen Suchon. I have fond memories of being in their classrooms, and you could tell they cared about their students.”

Wang photographed with her professors
Before Wang departed UMassD in 2009, she made sure to snap a few photos with some of her favorite professors, like Dr. Steve White and Dr. Kellyann Kowalski.

With her focus on her academics and extracurricular activities, Wang also participated in a work-study program in the former Community Service Center (now Leduc Center for Civic Engagementv) on campus. She was the America Reads Program Coordinator for UMass Dartmouth, a program that places Corsairs in local community centers, elementary schools, and preschools to provide classroom support to teachers, help tutor struggling students, and mentor at-risk youth.

“That was my first job on campus and Monica Faria Godinho was an amazing mentor. I learned a lot from that experience in terms of event planning, project management, and scheduling,” Wang said. As her skills deepened with this experience, she found herself loving the campus setting, later finding herself back in higher education as a professional. “I stayed in that role for several years while I was there. That experience helped me succeed in my internship at John Hancock in Boston. It was a diversity internship program that was 10 to 12 weeks, and I was one of about 30 students to be selected for this highly competitive program.”

Wang also indulged in other typical college student activities, like rooming on campus in a dorm full of her best friends and, unbeknownst to her, her future husband, Christopher Chase ’09. She said, “I had never lived so far away from home, and living on campus was something I was excited about. During my senior year, I had a female roommate and two male roommates. By the end of that year, I fell in love with one of them. We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary recently. That was the biggest impact that UMass Dartmouth has had on my life.”

Wang didn’t just depart UMass Dartmouth with a diploma that would open doors for her across four industries, but also a supportive, caring partner that helped her grow into the professional she was destined to be.

Wang and fellow alum, Christopher Chase '09
From sharing a dorm room at UMassD to spending the rest of their lives togehter, Wang and her husband, Christopher Chase '09, are forever Corsairs at heart.

Matters of the heart give new purpose

Upon her graduation in 2009, Wang was thrown into an economy that had just taken a massive blow, and, as she ventured out into the working world, jobs were few and far between. Luckily, she landed a position at PwC. Setting her sights on her career, she witnessed her “save the world” mentality transform and become one focused on leadership development.

While at PwC, Wang found herself identifying with their mission, values, and work, finally seeing herself as the learning and development professional she was destined to be. Throughout the almost decade she spent with PwC, she worked on various learning and development programs and firm-wide initiatives.

Once Wang built a strong brand at PwC, she wanted to focus on her growth and development. She was a leader in operations at a quasi-governmental agency called Commonwealth Corporation, eventually becoming part of their extended leadership team. When Wang realized she missed her work in learning and development, it led her to a brief stint with a popular consulting boutique, Peak Advisory Consulting.

However, Wang’s priorities shifted again and knew she wanted to work on compelling projects while needing additional flexibility.  She pivoted from Peak to Babson College earlier this year, working in higher education for the first time since attending UMassD.

“My career has certainly zigzagged. I went and progressed to one of the highest levels and then slowly shifted down to match my new priorities in life,” Wang said. She credits her exposure to leadership roles and stellar academic programs at UMass Dartmouth that gave her the transferrable, adaptable skills she needed to bounce from industry to industry. “My family motivates me to do better in the world. I see our current environment and there are things that I appreciate and things that I want to change before my little one grows up.”

Now a first-time mom with family as her priority, Wang approaches each career move not merely as another job, but as an opportunity to create positive ripples to make the world a better place, much like tossing a starfish back into the ocean.