By Joshua Michna – 1851 Contributor
“Jesse, to me, is a figure I can look up to for motivation and inspiration,” says junior Eleianet Nunez, a student worker at the Intercultural Center & Commuter Cottage (IC3). “He is someone who genuinely puts his heart into everything he does and cares for his students and others deeply.”
Nunez isn’t the only one who feels this way about Jesse Tauriac, Assistant Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, and Director of the Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion at Lasell University. In fact, this is the collective opinion on campus.
Thomas Morgan, the Assistant Director at the Donahue Institute claims Tauriac is “the most caring person on campus.”
Where does this commitment to caring come from and how did he earn such a positive reputation at Lasell?
Tauriac had a complex childhood. Growing up in South Boston, he went through the foster care system. He saw a different perspective than most children. His life would have been different without his adoptive mother, a role model that lived true to her values. She was kind and always cared about the needs of others. She instilled these values in Tauriac at a young age.
Tauriac’s childhood experience guided him when choosing a career. In high school he took a career aptitude test that suggested three careers: rabbi, psychologist or psychiatrist. Tauriac isn’t Jewish, so he ruled out the first option. He liked the idea of being a psychologist. As someone who went through the foster care system, he cared about helping others since he understood the hardships children in special circumstances experience. Tauriac also desired the intellectual stimulation and problem-solving aspect of a career in psychology.
Tauriac attended Boston University and received his bachelor’s degree in psychology. He then received both a master’s degree and PhD from the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Although he considered practicing psychology clinically, Tauriac found a passion for teaching. He enjoyed the student interaction, which led him to pursue a career as a teacher.
Tauriac began teaching psychology at Lasell in 2012, and immediately recognized institutional issues. He saw that people were being hurt unintentionally, and saw that students encountering issues related to race had nowhere to go to talk about these issues. Tauriac saw these issues as a challenge and soon became involved in conversations and conferences about diversity on campus.
Following a racially offensive issue in 2014 with the previous dining service, Lasell sought to improve support for its diverse student body and address race dynamics on campus. The community wanted a specific person, not the general faculty, to lead this meaningful position. The community turned to Tauriac.
By the time he was selected to take the position as the Director of the Donahue Institute at Lasell, he was already gaining popularity on campus. Tauriac has a special ability to make people comfortable as soon as he meets them. Besides his personable warmth and calm demeanor, Tauriac uses three specific methods that make the people around him comfortable.
First, he is very perceptive of others. IC3 student worker senior Alanis Rivera-Perez describes a conversation she had where Tauriac was explaining an idea, and made sure he was not speaking over her experiences as a woman before continuing. She was appreciative of his deliberate care about her in the conversation.
The second method Tauriac uses to make people comfortable could be considered untraditional— in the right context, he swears. This technique makes students view Tauriac as a trustworthy friend instead of as an authoritarian faculty member. It also opens the floor for students to express emotions freely, without restraint or fear of consequence.
Third, Tauriac is not only someone students can trust, but someone who trusts students. He makes people comfortable by trusting them and encouraging their success. When Yadira Medina, a current junior of Dominican heritage, contacted Tauriac to participate in a Hispanic heritage event, he was happy for her help with the planning and execution. Today she is a student worker at the IC3.
Another testament to Tauriac’s devotion to caring is his remarkable ability to remember faces, names, and intricate details about people’s lives. Morgan remarked that Tauriac always remembers the names of his two cats, and joked that he can barely remember their names himself. Not only does Tauriac remember details, but he inquires frequently about the wellbeing of students and checks in on their accomplishments.
Although Tauriac is passionate about caring for everyone on campus, it is not an easy task. The university’s small size means that everyone is well connected, and the IC3 team becomes closely invested in the wellbeing of many students. He sympathizes with everyone, so when someone on campus has experienced racism or mistreatment, it affects him personally.
Caring for and making sure everyone is represented on campus is a huge commitment. Even with an assistant director, six student workers, and six interns, Tauriac is busy around the clock helping students and planning events. Hosting both pre-election and post-election conversations, the IC3 had focused on politics in the community last semester.
There was also an outdoor celebration for LatinX & Hispanic Heritage Month, an event focused on decolonizing history on Indigenous People’s Day, and increased awareness for both Transgender Day of Remembrance and International Day of People with Disabilities. These special events were planned in addition to the annual Lasell U Belong festival and the student-only “Real Talk on Race” discussions.
Tauriac has come a long way in life, and is a huge part of shaping the future of the Lasell community. His experiences in life gave him the skills and values to be a much loved, respected, and certainly considered the most caring person at Lasell University.