Meet Rachael Rollins: Lawyer and Title IX ChampionNovember 30, 2011
1996–97 Selected Professions Fellow Rachael Rollins’ inspiring path through the field of law began during her undergraduate years at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Rollins received a full scholarship to play college lacrosse only to find out after her freshman year that the lacrosse, volleyball, and tennis teams would be cut due to budgetary constraints. Much to her surprise, the school’s football team, which had not experienced a winning season in some years, did not cut a single scholarship. Rollins and several other players threatened to initiate a Title IX lawsuit against the university, which led to the reinstatement of all three eliminated teams two years later.
These women’s continued commitment to advocacy following the programs’ reinstatement demonstrated their moral character and determination. Rollins describes the year after their re-establishment as “defining” despite the lacrosse team’s winless record. After fighting for the reinstatement of their team for two years, the women’s lacrosse team was left without a coach and players. They ultimately found a women’s field hockey coach and a men’s soccer coach to guide them and recruited players who had no previous experience in the sport. Rollins proudly served these women as captain for her remaining two years at UMass. In this role, she cemented her legacy as a true leader.
Rollins’ experience with Title IX led to her interest in the intersection of sports and law. She completed her juris doctor degree at Northeastern University and then earned a master of law degree at Georgetown University. As an AAUW fellow, she conducted comprehensive research on Title IX in New England and educated organizations on the statute and its direct effect on women. Through these efforts, Rollins told her story as one of the UMass women who used Title IX to boost women’s equality.
Rollins also holds the distinction of serving as the first intern in the history of the National Basketball Players Association. She continued her work in sports with the Boston Celtics and the NFL Players Association. She also was proud to be a woman of color working in this male-dominated field. More recently, Rollins was an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Massachusetts. She currently serves as the general counsel at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
According to Rollins, her biggest achievement is her “lady bug,” her 7-year-old daughter Peyton. She says she feels privileged to be working for the largest state agency in Massachusetts, yet she remains grounded in her family values. Rollins intends to continue to grow as a lawyer and says that work is her adrenaline rush now that she is no longer a college athlete.
Rollins was able to navigate a so-called “man’s world” in her career and fight for women’s equality in the process. As we approach the 40th anniversary of Title IX, we must remember how Rollins experienced “the power of Title IX, seeing in real time the strength the statute has” and the effect a small group of women has had on the history of women’s collegiate sports.
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.