Kate Zoromski, Associate Dean of CAS, retires 

Many students and faculty on campus can attest to the arduous dedication and tenacity that is  intertwined with academic life at college. Without a doubt, as finals week awaits, there is notable academic fatigue that students and faculty struggle through during the last term. 

The Center for Academic Success (CAS) has been a staple for the well-being of students across campus. Kathryn Zoromski, better known as Kate by students, is the Associate Dean of Academic Success. This will be her tenth and final year here at Lawrence University after assisting students for more than 25 years.  

Kate Zoromski in her office. Photo by Alex Stanger.

With a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English from Rutgers University and a Master of Arts (MA) in English from Arizona State University, Zoromski arrived at Lawrence in the spring of 2014 after working at Arizona State University (ASU) for 15 years. Zoromski began her implementation of Academic Coaching by offering a course called Academic Well-Being during Fall Term 2014, listed as UNIC 117.  She stated the implementation only needed a few “tweaks” as she would “hone the Academic Well-Being course” she used previously at ASU and bring it to Lawrence, finding that many of the struggles in academics for students from both institutions were similar across the board.  

Zoromski stated, “Whatever the struggle may be for a student: from working full-time, experiencing the death of a loved one, a bad break up — I don’t know? But I’m here! [she laughs]” She emphasized the difficulties with an affirmation of her own experience; as she stated, “I had an awful first year of college, and I took some time off. And after I went back, I was so afraid of failure and became grade-obsessed, so I was still a hot mess.” Stress is present for students from either end of the academic spectrum; according to Zoromski, “no matter the cumulative GPA or grade,” there is always a surmountable strain upon students.  

During her time at Lawrence, Zoromski served as a co-chair for the campus faculty/staff group Low Income First-gen Talent Unpacking Privilege (LIFT UP), as an advocate as a former first-generation student herself. She served as a staff member, meeting with other first-gen staff. The organization has allowed first-gen staff to unpack the experience of being first-gen mutually as they observe and assist current first-gen students on campus.  

There was a notable difference for Zoromski when she initially arrived at Lawrence University from Arizona State University; she states that “Lawrence was a different school,” as “this institution was designed for a certain kind of student.” Zoromski acknowledges the strides that Lawrence has made from historically catering to a “white upper-middle-class body of students” to become a space that strives to improve and remain un-stagnant. Still, Zoromski notes that there are “always improvements and work to be done,” especially at a university “which changes at a very slow rate.” 

In 2020, students and staff would navigate through the pandemic, and this would be Zoromski’s first time serving as a proud mentor for scholars of Posse 14, who have left an indelible mark on her. She pointed to a photo on her office door, stating, “they’ve been the best experience that I have had here, and I love them; they are a huge part of my life.”  

An avid cook and baker, Zoromski has connected with her Posse scholars over her love of food; as she joked, “I start to get to know them once I feed them.”  Coincidentally or not, her Posse scholars will graduate from Lawrence University this year, taking their leave as they find a new chapter in post-graduate life while Zoromski will leave for a new chapter of retirement. 

“Retirement” is a bit of a daunting word for her, as Zoromski tries to imagine not working for the first time, saying that she’s worked since her teen years. The cliche question to ask is, “What will you do in retirement?” What comes to mind for Zoromski is hoping to try to “play ‘Animal Crossing.’” She recalls, “I remember how my students would occasionally describe how calming it was. I’m fascinated by this game, so I hope to learn how to play ‘Animal Crossing.’” Zoromski also stated she would “like to go to libraries and to movie theaters when no one else is there.” Regarding travel, Zoromski is excited to go on road trips and visit Ireland and Scotland. 

Zoromski has been invited into many students’ lives — even her couch is known as the “couch of teen tears,” as students profess their worries to her from it — and she states that is has left her the “opportunity and privilege of being a part of the students’ lives that I won’t take for granted.” 

Lawrence will soon be without Zoromski as a practitioner in well-being, but her influence will persist. There is a reality of the importance of well-being, as “well-being is complex; all the research tells us that if you’re achieving well-being, then you are having success.” Zoromski hopes that the CAS will keep offering the Academic Well-Being course while maintaining institutional initiatives with well-being in mind.