By Colin Froment and Avery Stankus – Co-Editor-in-Chief and 1851 Staff
Four faculty and staff members retiring this year wish the best future for the entire Lasell community. They share their accomplishments and their favorite memories of working on campus.
Associate Professor of Fashion Richard Bath finishes up his final year teaching as he leaves his legacy with the fashion program.
The highly-respected professor has been a part of the Lasell community since 1988 when he applied as Program Director for the Fashion department.
“My role here was to simply take the fashion program and make it something that students would be able to learn from through the process of giving them ownership of all the things we were going to do in the department,” said Bath. He recalled the time when he denied partaking in the 1989 spring fashion show when students came to ask him. “The job of creating a fashion show…is up to you. It’s your show, it’s your department. This is your program,” Bath said to his students. The annual fashion show has been student-run ever since.
For the past 31 years, Bath’s work has always revolved around his students. “Whenever I did anything it was always centered around student input because [faculty] can look at something one way but students will look at it in a different way. We need to have that input so we don’t make silly mistakes or make assumptions that we know what’s good for students, because we don’t. They know what’s good for them,” said Bath.
As to what Bath will miss the most, without hesitation his response was his students. From their academic contribution to witnessing what the students produce, he’s going to miss challenging them to the fullest to achieve their goals.
Bath recalls his favorite memory as hiring of one of his former fashion students who graduated in 1993. “She went off to make herself a big name in the fashion industry and then recruiting her back here to become a teacher, Assistant Professor of Fashion Kristin Kinsky. That is the thing I cherish the most…For me, I can retire now knowing that Kristin’s going to be here.”
His work hasn’t only impacted his students but his co-workers as well. “He will al- ways find a lesson as a silver lining to any mistake, which makes a team brave enough to try difficult things,” said Bath’s former student and Kinsky. “I wouldn’t be at Lasell if it weren’t for Professor Bath and I hope I can continue the work of challenging and supporting our amazing students half as well as he has.”
In this new chapter he’s looking forward to spending more time with his kids and grandson. One aspect he won’t miss is traveling Route 128 to get to work. “I have a bucket list and Route 128 is not on it,” Bath said.
Dean of Curricular and Faculty Innovations Catherine Zeek retires after 14 years at Lasell.
Since 2005, Zeek has contributed to the Lasell community. Starting off as Chair of Education, she began her initial position by examining the programs that existed. “We did a lot of look- ing at what was working and what wasn’t in the program,” said Zeek.
She continued her Lasell career working with the graduate program by maintaining the interim dean for about a year. She was able to design and launch the Master of Education Program which has since grown and become a successful curriculum for students.
From there, she took experiences and interests in curriculum design and assessment to then propose and become the Founding Director of the Teaching and Learning Center. Since 2011 she’s been in the middle of designing and implementing the Core Curriculum. It was in 2017 when she took on the role of Dean of Curriculum and Faculty Innovation.
After being one of the architects of the school’s Core Curriculum, her current position involves overseeing the Teaching and Learning Center and Center for Community Based Learning. She works closely with both the Director of the Writing Program Michelle Niestepski as well as Faculty Coordinator of the Core Curriculum Dennis Frey. Together they work to coordinate program learning outcome assessment.
“With all of the schools, academic associate deans and program directors, I don’t do anything all by myself,” said Zeek.
Zeek points to all of the work done with the Core Curriculum as her favorite memory. “One of the exciting things about working on the Core Curriculum was being able to work with faculty from across the college, with staff, with administrators, that’s been a real highlight,” she said.
Over the past 14 years Zeek has established many relationships. From faculty and staff to the students, she said she will miss the people at Lasell the most. “There’s a lot of variation in terms of the interests and backgrounds that all of those groups bring. That’s what makes this such a rich and vibrant community,” she said. “We don’t always all agree on everything but we are able to talk thoughtfully and identify the priorities that we have and to take steps collaboratively to move the college forward.”
Her advice for those going into the higher education field is to, “be prepared for one of the most exciting careers that you’re going to have…It’s going to give you all sorts of opportunities to think of yourself and your career in new and different ways,” Zeek said.
As for her plans after Lasell, Zeek is excited to spend more time in her garden, travel and sleep in. Her first planned destination is Croatia next year with Professor Linda Bucci’s EF travel group. She’s also planning a road trip up the east coast of Canada.
Despite the souvenir collection scattered around her of office, Vice President of Student Affairs, Diane Austin, says the best souvenirs are the students, alum and colleagues, “that are still a part of [my] life.”
For the past 24 years, Austin has been the face of Lasell’s Student Affairs office. The former Assistant Director of Counseling and Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Bentley University assisted in creating impactful policy since arriving at Lasell in June 1995.
Austin fell in love with Lasell’s history and culture when applying. “I’m reading about some of the traditions and reading about River Day, and […] about Torchlight…I loved that when I was first learning about it,” said Austin, “I cherish that about this place, we have a very rich history that we have every right to be proud of.”
The Student Affairs office only had two other full-time employees during Austin’s arrival. The three, alongside a “tremendously supportive” Board of Trustees, different school presidents and senior team members, worked together to expand the number of employees in the office.
One of the biggest accomplishments Austin was a part of was the addition of co-education when Lasell was a women’s college. In a June 1997 board meeting, then-president of Lasell Thomas de Witt attempted to push for a co-education institution.
Austin then became part of a board-approved “Mission Committee” with 11 other board members and faculty members (some of whom are Lasell alums) dedicated to researching and investigating the benefits of co-education. Austin wrote the committee’s final report that would be presented to the board.
In October 1997, it became a “unanimous” vote to incorporate co-education at Lasell. The first male students were officially welcomed in September 1998.
Austin’s favorite memories will always be the people she has come to meet. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some wonderful colleagues and students,” Austin said. Her final message to the community is that everyone at Lasell has yet to fulfill their potential. “No matter how much this institution has accomplished in its 168 year history, there are things yet to do, and there are still ways in which we can continue to get better, and deepen the quality of this experience for all members of this place,” she said. “I think it’s about each of us trying to bring our best here, but also collectively to join together to not be complacent, and to continue to say, ‘no matter how good we think today is, we can be better… we have so much more we can be and can do and we should not be ignoring how much potential we have.”
Besides the many books she has been itching to read, Austin is ready for longer vacations with her husband and interacting more with the four non-profit community development organizations that she is on the board, and even president of. Above all, she is “eager” to dedicate more time to visiting her friends and family.
The psychology program at Lasell would not be a hands-on experience without the help of Professor of Psychology Marsha Mirkin.
The former New York resident and middle school English teacher always loved seeing students who originally lack self-confidence transition into professional settings with ease. “My proudest moments are when I see students who might have been coming in here struggling, or [self-]doubting, and they leave as amazing adults ready for the profession,” said Mirkin. “It wasn’t just observing, it was actively walking with our students and really admiring what they can accomplish.”
Mirkin began as an adjunct professor at Lasell 16 years ago. “I fell in love with the support for creativity; for letting me come up with ideas, for the connections I found almost immediately with faculty and with students, and the relationships that I have developed,” Mirkin said.
Mirkin mainly instructs courses in Social Psychology, counseling courses, the senior internship courses and seminars, and Psychic Diversity. Years ago, Mirkin conducted research with her students, a new feat for psychology classes. She developed an idea for their first project, and then the students proposed research on domestic violence for their second.
However, the students could not find scholarly research to reference for their literature reviews, despite Mirkin contacting domestic violence research experts. The students developed the research themselves, with minimal assistance. Their findings were eventually published in scholarly journals “Journal of Family Violence” and “American Family Therapy.”
“It was them, I was not first author of that,” Mirkin said. “That’s why it was my proudest moment, they could handle it. I was very excited about it.”
Until recently, Mirkin conducted student voices panels, where students volunteered to participate in psychology discussions. These included “Voices of Immigrant Students” and “Voices of LGBTQ+ Students,” where issues such as race, social class, immigration status, mental health, and others were openly shared. Similarly, Mirkin and her students once started intergenerational modules, where students and Lasell Village residents shared their personal stories and formed relationships with each other.
“Whenever I can be there to support students who are taking leadership and doing things that they don’t believe they can do, and then they really do it, it’s wonderful,” Mirkin said.
Upon retirement, Mirkin wants to continue writing more books. She has already published works in family therapy and in psychological progressive interpretations of biblical stories.
Mirkin emphasizes how important it is to teach what the students want to know. “It matters to me what students want to learn and what they can do with their lives,” she said. “These psych majors who have no interest in a career in psychology, but they can still walk away with knowledge of certain human functioning, behavior and feelings. Then there are students who want to do the whole spectrum – from working with infants to working over at Lasell Village,” said Mirkin, “It’s fun finding out what they want to do.”