Associate Dean Earns Recognition for Innovative Work in Student Wellbeing

January 13th, 2017 by 

Neal Lipsitz in office
Photo by: Tom Rettig

For Neal Lipsitz, associate dean for student development, working with students is the best part of his job.

“Being able to establish trusting relationships with students who are sometimes struggling, being invited to help them, and to see their growth and development during their college experience is a real privilege and is enormously fulfilling,” explains Lipsitz, who primarily interacts with students through his work in student development services, as well as in the classroom through the Montserrat program, the College’s living and learning program for first-year students.

Known for his compassion, innovation and keen insights, Lipsitz, who earned his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Boston College, has made a continuous impact on the College of the Holy Cross over the past 17 years — an impact recently recognized by National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) who honored Lipsitz with the Region I Institutional Leadership Award.

Lipsitz was chosen as the awardee among student affairs professionals in Region I — broadly described as New England, eastern Canada, and western Europe — for his significant professional contribution to the growth and development of the College in the areas of programming, policies, and staff and student development.

On campus, Lipsitz’s contributions are directly made through his work overseeing student development services, which is made up of the counseling center, disabilities services, health services, and wellness programming.

On top of a large amount of clinical and direct student service that is conducted on a mostly one-on-one basis, Lipsitz and his staff have developed and provide innovative educational programming to students, such as peer-education programs, health-oriented online and in-person screenings, relaxation downloads, orientation workshops for students and their parents, student leader training, and mentoring opportunities in the Sutton Middle School.

“Such a focus is important to me because we exist to support our students in their educational goals, aspirations and pursuits at the College and, by providing direct clinical services and creative educational programming, our students can find new and better ways to cope with the barriers that inevitably develop as they pursue their educational goals,” says Lipsitz.

Additionally, he has developed a student learning outcome assessment that focuses on student advocacy, which according to Lipsitz is one of the most important skills for academic success among students with disabilities. He has also recently secured and renovated a space on campus to be used for proctoring exams for students with disabilities.

From the perspective of Derek Zuckerman, associate dean of student life, Lipsitz goes above and beyond to meet individual student needs.

“On campus, Dean Lipsitz is known as a committed student advocate,” says Zuckerman.

Lipsitz has also used his research and expertise to benefit the field of higher education, most acutely through his role in co-editing the NASPA book “Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act: Inclusive Policy and Practice for Higher Education” (2014), which serves as a primer and quick reference guide for higher education professionals who work with students with disabilities and provides transferable information that is applicable to any campus.

In addition to consistently sharing his knowledge through national conference presentations, Lipsitz and two of his colleagues are currently working on publishing an article that provides a novel conceptual framework to assess the educational experience of students with disabilities in college.

Aimed to benefit Holy Cross students, as well as college students across the country, Lipsitz’s work aligns with the Ignatian ideal of “cura personalis,” or care of the whole person.

“We pay attention to all components of our students’ lives and provide the support that is often necessary to help them succeed but also to grow and develop along the way,” Lipsitz shares.

It is with great appreciation that Lipsitz accepted his award from NASPA, an honor that he says was only made possible due to the colleagues that surround him.

“Faculty and staff at Holy Cross are so amazingly dedicated to the welfare of our students and it has always amazed me just how committed this community is to these students who we are here to serve,” says Lipsitz. “It’s a privilege and a blessing to be able to do so within a community of care and consideration for one another.”

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