Ashley Medeiros – Contributing Writer
When you walk around Lasell College with Jesse Tauriac you feel as though you are in the company of a celebrity. Every student who crosses his path is eager to speak with him. Some may be his advisees, others might have a question about an upcoming assignment, but most are seeking a genuine hello and deep intellectual conversation. No matter what they are looking for one thing remains the same; each individual receives undivided attention, a mindful response, and a smile.
As an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Social Sciences at Lasell, Tauriac’s research interests include promoting academic engagement and success among racially and ethnically diverse students, particularly Black American males and first generation college students. His research is published in the “Journal of Diversity in Higher Education,” “The Journal for Specialists in Group Work,” and other peerreviewed journals and book chapters.
Tauriac’s glowing presence among students is one built on respect and understanding. “I’ll never forget when I was 14-years-old he came to my highschool and taught a boy’s group. He taught me people in high places understand and it’s okay to be where I am and know there are places I could be. His thoughts have trailed with me from how to be a successful Black man in society to being an artist, activist, and ally,” said student Moïse Michel.
To Tauriac, race and other types of oppression are more than experiences; they are important issues he needs to address, and has dedicated most of his studies to. “My whole life has basically consisted of moments where race becomes very salient to me, and very much something that I either had been confronted with or something that has been central to kind of shaping my sense of self,” said Tauriac.
The most prominent of these memories would not come until his collegiate years. Tauriac remembers in his sophomore year of college he began to take social psychology courses, which helped him to better understand internalized racism. At this time he was also reading “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” an African- American Muslim minister and human rights activist.
Through the experiences dictated by Malcolm X, Tauriac was able to make sense of his own experiences of internalized racism, and put them into context. That is when he recognized how powerful education is and how it can help to empower others, develop a positive sense of self, and the oppressive forces that help to shape institutions that deny access or resources to some.
When Tauriac began graduate training, he gained a deeper understanding of multiculturalism and other forms of oppression as they play themselves out not only to target people of color, but also women, people with different religious beliefs, and LGBT community members. He had to address this, and “this” not only meant race, but all areas of oppression.
“[I would consider myself an activist] with caution in the sense that I feel like I’m an aspiring activist…. I think, for me, because I try to encourage and promote activism, part of my own process in claiming that activist identity has been being able to help others to just take action,” said Tauriac. “That is activism. There is so much more I would like to do, and I have so far to go in engaging social justice issues. However, you can empower others and that doesn’t mean you have to dedicate your whole life to it; it’s about conscious awareness and action. With that, I would say that I am an activist.”
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee was in place prior to Tauriac’s employment at Lasell, but he grew to be a prominent member of the committee.
“Diversity is like being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance. Institutions can have a lot of diverse students that do not feel they are heard or as though their background and beliefs are not very well covered in the curriculum,” he said.
Tauriac hopes in time every student who walks a college campus, despite their background, will feel welcomed and included as if they have a place here without giving up parts of themselves.
“Professor Tauriac has been someone who is constantly standing up for students, not only White students, Black students, Asian students, students of color,” said Jennessa Agnew, student and member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “He is always pushing forward and asking what we are going to do next, how we are going to make everyone feel comfortable here, and he is a really critical part of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.”
When looking to the future, Tauriac hopes his teachings will inspire many levels of change at Lasell College. He would like to see students feel included. He would like to ensure students, staff, faculty, and administration will develop a greater sense of cross-group empathy and perspective- taking ability. He would like to see the curriculum reflect a range of backgrounds, and other areas of differences. Tauriac’s vision of Lasell in 10 years becomes more of a reality as his life lessons carry through every student he stops to converse with along the way.