Rachel Heinz is the Director of Missouri State University’s Bear POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Work, Education and Resilience), an inclusive college program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, that launched in the 2019 Spring semester. In her position, she oversees the Bear POWER Program, raises awareness for inclusion within educational settings, the community and the workplace, and provides leadership on a local, regional and national level as the spokesperson for Bear POWER.
When her 7 year-old son, Hudson, was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, it started her on a path of advocating for people with disabilities to educate about inclusion, increase opportunities and raise expectations. Currently, Rachel is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Special Education and Student Affairs at Missouri State.
Aside from her work at MSU, Rachel is a photographer who specializes in family photography and has volunteered with “Changing the Face of Beauty” that encourages businesses to promote inclusion in photography, marketing and advertising. She has been involved in advocacy as a volunteer with Ruby’s Rainbow, an organization that provides college scholarships to students with Down syndrome. Rachel is also a volunteer mentor with Missouri Family to Family, which is an organization that provides free supports to people with disabilities and their families. Her efforts are not limited to the state of Missouri. She is currently Vice Chair of Membership and Communication with the Midwest Inclusive Post-Secondary Alliance (MIPSA). In addition, Rachel has worked with other inclusive post-secondary programs by providing mentorship to parents, educators and advocates in Texas, Michigan, Missouri, and California.