Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Profile: Rachel Hafer ’11

December 1, 2023

Never Give Up

Rachel Hafer ’11 is a data analyst at Arizona State University’s (ASU) Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Now a highly-educated individual with multiple degrees, Hafer never thought she could have accomplished all she has.

“Forman definitely improved my confidence in both myself and in school,” Hafer says.

Hafer, who grew up in Washington before her family moved to Hawaii when she was a teenager, has dyscalculia, ADD, and auditory processing disorder. She recalls her struggles with math, which nearly held her back from advancing to the next grade.

“[I was] in an individualized learning program before we moved to Hawaii so I could finish my middle school classes,” she says. “I would go to one school during the first part of my day, and then I would go to the personalized learning program for the second part of my day for math and history.”

She adds, “I don’t remember [having to go to the personalized learning program as] being difficult because it was my normal, but I do remember struggling a lot and being bullied.”

Following her parents’ search for a school that would better support her learning differences, Hafer started at Forman in 10th grade. 

“I was really [looking forward to going] to Forman,” she recalls. “I was not kicking and screaming about going to boarding school … I was so excited.”

Hafer says attending a school where everyone had a learning difference changed her perspective about her future.

“That was the best part of it,” she says. “I was [around] people who were exactly like me.”

She succeeded at Forman—serving as a dorm prefect and always trying new activities. She was involved in dance, hockey, theater, volleyball, and whitewater kayaking, which was her favorite.

“[Whitewater kayaking] was terrifying, but (Science Teacher and Whitewater Kayaking Coach) Wendy (Welshans P’24) taught me that I could do it,” she says. “It was awesome.” 

Hafer keeps in touch with several of her dorm parents and teachers, including Cognition and Learning Teacher Tammy Diehl P’19, former Dean of Faculty Francey Fenton, and Cognition and Learning Teacher Missi Boyer P’16, P’18. She embraced Forman’s tight-knit community and has fond memories of barbeques on sunny days and snow days with her friends.

“I love going back to Forman, seeing how much the campus has built up,” she says, noting how much she admired the Promethean Lab on her last visit with Alana Kurfist ’13. 

After Forman, Hafer attended Roanoke College. However, in her junior year, she was denied the academic accommodations she needed for a statistics class. She persevered and worked through her struggles, attending every tutoring session and extra credit lecture. Though she passed that class, it took a toll on her. She decided to take a year off from college and later transferred to ASU.

“[ASU] gave me my accommodations immediately, and I started getting As,” she says. “It really shows that once you’re in the right school, it works.”

Rachel Hafer ’11 on a visit to Forman

During Forman’s virtual alumni panel in 2022, Hafer did not hold back when she shared her undergraduate experience with students. “I remember someone asked me, ‘How do you balance your time when you get to college?’ and I said honestly, you don’t balance your time,” she says. “You get there, and you screw up, and you learn pretty quickly that you also have to do school. I was upfront with them, and I think they enjoyed hearing that.”

Looking back on her own experiences, she advises students to take advantage of the support around them and stay focused.

“Don’t give up and keep moving. There are definitely going to be times when you run into stuff, and you’re like, ‘I can’t face this; it’s not going to work,’” she says. “I had to take a year off of college for my mental health to regroup. Don’t be afraid to get help if you need counseling. College is hard; seek out help just like you did at Forman.”

At ASU, Hafer started getting involved, volunteering, and connecting with the community—something she learned the importance of at Forman. She was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, an international women’s fraternity; Student Event Planners Association (SEPA); Order of Omega, an honor society for the top five percent of the Greek community; and Phi Upsilon Omicron, a family and consumer sciences honor society. Hafer not only earned a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on Recreation Management and Event Planning, but she also completed a master’s program in higher education in 2021. She is now pursuing a graduate certificate in technical communication and may continue further to earn a second master’s degree.

She says, “Not only did I leave Roanoke to transfer to ASU and feel empowered, I realized I was doing well enough to keep going.”

In her first year at Forman, Hafer was intrigued by the role of former Dean of Students Annie Crawford. She progressed toward becoming a dean of students herself—eventually working in student affairs in higher education. Her goals evolved throughout her career, and she now has her eyes set on thriving in the technology industry.

“I think I always wanted to go into technology. It just took me a while to feel empowered enough,” Hafer says. “It doesn’t matter that I don’t understand numbers. You don’t necessarily need to understand numbers to go into tech or science, so that was a really nice realization.”

“I remember being good at biology at Forman and really enjoying it,” she adds. “That class, combined with my previous job as an academic coach for multiple academic centers across three campuses, where [I ran] technology orientations on how to use your iPad for college, made me realize tech is what I am passionate about and what I love. Getting [my current] position, which is even further into tech, made me realize I can keep doing this.” 

Today, Hafer designs and develops data infrastructure to support learning, business, and operation systems at  ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She is excited about advancing her career in technology and plans to stay in Arizona.

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