Get real with the new Dean of Lasell School of Fashion

By Savannah Nolan1851 Contributor

Q&A Series with Dean Potter Part 2:

Lasell University’s professor, Kathleen Potter recently got promoted to become the new Dean of Lasell School of Fashion, in this series she discusses what it was like transitioning careers during Covid-19, what changes she plans on making to the school of fashion, and what advice she would give to the graduating class of 2020. 

Q: As you have made the transition from Professor to Dean of Fashion here at Lasell, were there any particular hardships that you faced transitioning careers during Covid-19? 

A: I think COVID is affecting us, all right. Whether it be in our personal or professional lives or goals. And I think for a lot of us, we fall into the latter category of both. So from a professional standpoint, look, I work in higher ed, so we are eating this in real-time …

Just witnessing the school of fashion faculty up close and personal and sort of by extension other faculty as well, and the volume of work that was put into thinking about how we could deliver a good student experience in the fall,(with a public health crisis going on) it really did make the summer of 2020 look different than past summers. And I’m really optimistic and I’m really excited that that work will pay off …

Transitioning into increased leadership responsibilities in a time of a public health crisis is an interesting mix of things to be navigating at the same time … I am very lucky in that I’m kind of naturally an optimist and often have a positive outlook, but am not so much a sugar coater. So I won’t say that it’s been easy or that kind of thing. But I think one thing about the pandemic is that it kind of pushes us and stretches us to think in new and different ways about problem-solving … This thing is not easy to navigate at all times, but I do think there’s actually been some kind of bright spots about it, so I carry those with me so I can so I can maintain a positive outlook on it.

Q: So you were just saying that there’s definitely some “bright spots of it,” what do you think are some positive things you gained from this experience?

A:I’ll just say two things to your question and some of the silver linings of the time that we’re living through. So one of them is really kind of something that I’m seeing for the school of fashion … And then one is more personal. 

As I look out across the landscape of the School of Fashion, I just see so many really amazing, really talented, really creative people. And I think when you are a creative or studying a creative discipline, I actually think that when you have constraints placed upon you or parameters you have to work within, I actually think it’s when some of the most interesting and kind of epiphany like moments can happen because you’re forced to think outside the box … You have to really kind of problem solve and it pushes you to think creatively, critically, and analytically in a way that we might not otherwise have to do. So I think for creatives, especially when you have that kind of a constraint to navigate, I think it can think it can yield some of your best work. So I think that I’m excited to see happen over the course of this academic year, how we rise to the occasion. How will we put our best foot forward, even with difficult, challenging circumstances upon us? … 

I think (that the other is) the way that we’ve interacted with the concept of time and COVID has been interesting … But more than just sort of observing the passage of time, thinking about how I spend my time and how I prioritize my time. “Give us a minute” and this is a little cliche, and lots of people have spoken about this and written about this and said this, it’s not particularly an original thought, but I think it’s important just to say, just to think about you, how do you spend this time that’s that’s so challenging? What will you say about your time? What will you say about 2020 when it’s five years from now, ten years from now? What will you have made of your time during this environment? 

Q: Are there any aspects of the school fashion that you feel are outdated or maybe should be changed?

A: Any time there’s a change in leadership, any time there’s even really the start of a new year, it’s a good opportunity to look out and see what’s going on. What do we love, what we want to grow, what areas might we want to grow in? And so I think to go to your specific question of is there anything outdated, I think actually we’re living in a time that’s going to create lots of things that become outdated. And so I think that the fashion industry is an interesting place that a lot of the changes that were in the winds for COVID and they were there have been expedited because of. So things like sustainability, things like leveraging digital technologies …

How do we make sense of how the industry has changed and is changing and will change because of the environment that we’re living in and then help educate our students for that? … And so we want to be in front of that, and that’s our distinct goal. So I think that’s one thing that we’re all across the school of fashion looking at as a place to monitor and to be on top of and thinking about how we can hoan in some new curriculum that addresses preparing students for these changes that are happening in the industry when they get there.

Q: What advice would you give to the class of 2020 as they begin to enter the fashion industry during such unprecedented times? 

The class of 2020, it’s going to go down in history. Right. First, let me say in having the privilege of talking to any member of the class of 2020, whether it be the high school class of 2020 or college class of 2020, I would first say I would have to give them a huge and sincere congratulations and well done because graduating is a big deal. It’s a milestone that marks four years of a lot of work and dedication and preparation for a career path and all of these things. So it’s a huge deal in any circumstances. But then you sort of layer in what they were also navigating simultaneously. It’s a lot, so they really should be so proud of themselves. 

And for any of the for any members of the class of 2020 who are not yet where they want to be, I would say that I would I would offer my encouragement and support and I would tell them to hang in there and to not let their discouragement get the better of them to keep going and that things will, we hope, eventually start to open up and new opportunities will make themselves known. And those opportunities may look and feel different, but I am confident that they will come … I would also really encourage them to think about what they’re doing with this time … There are so many opportunities out there right now, even though it seems like this time where things are kind of contracting and there’s not that many opportunities, there are different kinds of opportunities out there. So if you haven’t landed your dream job and you just graduated, use this time to build up your professional profile and get involved in some of this amazing digital programming that’s out there. 

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