Morgan Golliver, Sports Editor
Utica College announced toward the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester that Richard Racioppa would become the First Director of Student Athlete Success. This move helps the college continue stressing achievement in its student athletes. Prior to being appointed this position, Racioppa has spent 12 years in the UC Student Success office.
Since the Utica College athletic department’s mission is to “enhance personal growth through athletic competition, academic success, and positive citizenship.”
Dr. Jeffrey Gates, senior vice president for student life and enrollment management, oversees both the Utica College athletic department and student success. He felt adding this position was necessary.
“Adding this position was based on several items and conversations,” Gates said. “One of which was the Middle States visiting team who mentioned that given the number of teams and athletes we should support students and coaches with the position of this caliber. It was also a recommendation from a consultant that reviewed our athletics program last year that we should have this type of position at the college.”
Gates also said that choosing Richard for this position was the right decision because of Richard’s prior knowledge in helping students succeed.
“Nearly 30 percent of UC students participate in one of our 26 Division III athletic teams so we felt this was an important role to support student athletes and coaches,” Gates said. “Rich’s vast knowledge in student success strategies and his longevity at UC made the decision easy. Rich’s location in Clark Athletic Center is purposeful so that he’s at the center of activity within UC athletics.”
In terms of emphasizing student-athlete success, Gates said the college has always wanted to help its students be successful and be able to graduate.
“I don’t believe that there is any more emphasis on student-athlete success today versus the past. We have always wanted to retain and graduate students,” Gates said. “However we are much more focused on increasing retention and graduation rates for all students and this is just one of the many efforts that we have put into place to achieve these goals.”
Dave Fontaine, the Athletic Director at Utica College, didn’t have a say in the decision to hire Richard, but said he makes a great fit in the athletics department.
“Rich and I have a really good relationship where if he has any questions regarding anything involving athletics, he is very comfortable chatting with me and I’m very comfortable talking with him if I have any questions and the Coaches are very comfortable with him as well,” Fontaine said. “His new location in athletics also makes face-to-face communication easier to get in touch with him.”
Fontaine also said that he hopes Rich will help the college’s student athletes continue to strive in academic success.
“Having our student-athletes and students do well is the mission of our college,” Fontaine said. “We’re very proud that our student-athletes have a department GPA of 3.11, which was our highest GPA ever. But, we can’t rest on what we’ve done last year, we have to continue to do that, and I believe that Rich will help in that area tremendously.”
As Director of Student Athlete Success, Racioppa’s duties include working with student-athletes throughout their time at UC as well as working work closely with the success coaches in the Center for Student Success to ensure these students are able to earn their degrees and graduate.
Racioppa, alongside coaches and the UC Admissions office, helps recruit prospective student-athletes with a priority of making sure they have a smooth transition during their time at UC and during their college selection process.
Overall, Racioppa is excited to be a member of the athletic department, where he has already fit in.
“The entire athletic department has made me feel very welcome,” Racioppa said. “They have gone out of their way to acclimate me to the space, and make me feel like a member of the department.”