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New AD making her way in ‘a man’s world’

  • Rachel Burleson recently began her tenure as the athletic director at Franklin Pierce University. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Rachel Burleson recently began her tenure as the athletic director at Franklin Pierce University. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Rachel Burleson recently began her tenure as the athletic director at Franklin Pierce University. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rachel Burleson knew she needed to get out of the Midwest if she was going to advance her career in athletic administration.

Burleson – who recently began her tenure as Franklin Pierce University’s athletic director on July 1 – said it had long been her dream to become an athletic director, but the position had long seemed out of reach.

“One thing I realized was if I wanted to be an athletic director, I needed to get out of the Midwest and go somewhere more open-minded,” said Burleson. “That really was a draw here, it speaks that gender doesn’t matter.”

Burleson is no stranger to being a female in a position of power – she most recently served as associate athletic director for compliance and administration at Missouri Southern State University – but admits that in the past she had ran into situations where she had been doubted due to her gender. 

“I had a recent run in with an older coach who had a real issue with having to take orders from a female,” said Burleson, who said the coach admitted as much during his interview process. “He said females can’t be athletic and can’t anticipate things [as well as a man.]”

Burleson’s career in sports began with playing softball, a sport she said she has always loved due to the strategy.

“It’s a game within a game,” said Burleson. “I’ve always said that softball is a team sport and an individual game.”

After graduating high school in Fort Worth, Texas, Burleson received her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Tarleton State University in 2003 and her master’s degree in athletic administration from Northwest Missouri State University in 2008. 

Burleson – who spent time coaching softball and volleyball before transitioning to athletic administration positions – said she has worked as an assistant or associate athletic director for three schools before coming to Rindge. In her past three conferences, Burleson has never seen a female athletic director. 

Burleson recently attended a Division II meeting with FPU President Kim Mooney, saying she felt overwhelmed being the only female president/athletic director duo in the room.

“It was kind of surreal, and definitely overwhelming,” said Burleson. “Throughout my career, I have had to adjust to a man’s world. Some things come across different when a woman says them; I had to learn the politics.”

Burleson said she wanted to be an athletic director as she enjoys working with all different types of students, with each sport having its own personality.​ 

Burleson’s biggest goal in her tenure at Franklin Pierce University is to try to further engrain the university’s sports programs with the community and vice versa. 

“In all places that I have been, the community has engulfed the university and vice versa,” said Burleson, who said she was surprised when she first came to the area and didn’t see many in the community wearing Franklin Pierce shirts. 

Burleson is also excited to work with new programs, like ice hockey, rowing, and bowling, although she the trade off will be no longer working with popular Midwest collegiate sports like football and rodeo.

Burleson said the magnitude of her new job hasn’t really sunk in yet, although she admits that she’s excited to be part of a movement where more women are being hired into positions of power. 

“The needle is moving,” said Burleson. “Hopefully I can show other female athletes that it can be done.”