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Michael Harper

Outreach Coordinator for Diversity Programs | Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Mike Harper admits he wasn’t a great student in high school and even his first semester at Quinsigamond Community College he did poorly. But then in 2008, he was inspired by Barack Obama’s run for president and decided he needed to turn things around and invest in himself.

“I decided I needed to take myself seriously and shift gears,” he said. He joined the Student Senate and was elected president two years in a row. “QCC gives you the opportunity to grow and explore different areas and disciplines.”

Mr. Harper received an Associate degree in liberal arts from QCC and then transferred to Clark University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in international relations.

He now works at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as Outreach Coordinator for Diversity Programs. He is responsible for the development, implementation and assessment of diverse programs, activities and outreach administered to the entire campus community, and specifically to underrepresented populations, while being attentive to inclusion.

Outreach is also extended to external community partners in Worcester and beyond, including to community-based organizations and enrollment pipeline programs for youth. This allows him the opportunity to expose middle school and high school students to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) through impactful programming. He also works with incoming minority freshmen through the Connections Program, which includes a program before the academic year to help students bond socially and prepare academically for the year ahead, as well as programs throughout the academic year.

“QCC is one of the best options around, especially if you are not sure what you want to do,” he said. “You can take different courses and figure out your strengths.”

He said he has seen a lot of growth at QCC, even since he attended, with the student population increasing from 6,500 to almost 10,000. The downtown expansion and campus in Southbridge have shown the college is going to where the population is, which he said is important for a community college.

He encourages students to get involved, like he did with Student Senate, to meet others and get the most out of the college experience.

Mr. Harper enjoys being involved with high school students and being a mentor, not only through his job, but he also coaches youth football, From 2009-12 he coached at Doherty High School, his alma mater. This year he will be coaching the Worcester Vikings, the Pop Warner league.