Rebecca Wilson Lerario is the chief of staff for the chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and her master’s degree in organizational psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. While studying at Columbia, Lerario worked full-time for the dean’s office at the Columbia business school.

(Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Wilson Lerario)

(Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Wilson Lerario)

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Can you describe your duties as chief of staff?

“The chief of staff role is similar to that of a director of administration. There are aspects of employee management, recruitment and hiring, process management and leading complex initiatives that are aligned with the vision and mission of the organization. What is unique about this role is that there is an aspect of strategic advisement. The chief of staff advises the chair of the department and is the chair’s strategic partner in all departmental initiatives.”

How has education prepared you for your career as chief of staff?

“There are two types of education that have helped me succeed in my role: My formal undergraduate education in psychology and my higher education in organizational psychology have helped me create structures and processes that enable faculty and staff to succeed. The less formal education, learning from colleagues and through on-the-job experiences have been invaluable. I am surrounded by amazing coworkers at every level with varying experiences. Listening to them and utilizing their skills sets has prepared me to handle various challenges with the appropriate knowledge and expertise.”

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What continuing education is required for your role?

“I work for an academic institution and in this regard education is paramount. I am required to participate in training for faculty affairs, visa application, and credentialing processes. I have taken management and leadership courses and although not required, these courses are necessary to this roles success.”

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

“It’s the journey that matters. Contributing to a mission and vision of an institution takes time. Your impact, although likely tangible at year one, is not fully realized at this time. Contribute and own what you do and how you do it. When interviewing candidates I always ask them to describe themselves with one adjective. I find this very telling. My answer is loyal. I make decisions based on what is best for the organization as I am committed to its success. Others have answered with accountable, dedicated and attentive. It’s important to know who you are how you want to be known. Create that image and stay true to it.”

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Christina Thompson is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. She reports on various topics such as: Social Media, Local Events, Entertainment, Food and Drink and more. Her work can be found at