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Lee Brossoit, 34-years-long program builder and leader, to retire

SALEM, MASS – With a career of building systems and student supports winding down behind him, Salem State University administrator Lee Brossoit is being celebrated this summer as he approaches retirement.

Brossoit, who was the subject of a retirement celebration held in late June, first came to Salem State in 1990 to rebuild its residence life program. He would go on to launch the university’s higher education in student affairs (HESA) program, which today has nearly 500 graduates, and he retires as an assistant vice president overseeing Salem State’s Center for Academic Excellence.

The energy to build coalitions and programs came from an interesting place for Brossoit, a first-generation college student who pinned his entire experience on advice from his grandfather. It was after a series of tough growing years on a family farm when a younger Brossoit asked his elder, “why are we bothering?”

“He said, ‘I can’t guarantee what will happen if we plant them, but I can guarantee what will happen if we don’t. So, let’s get to work,’” Brossoit recalled. “That important message of perseverance and hope, it’s why I created the HESA program. It’s his message of, ‘if you don’t do anything, there’s no hope.’”

Brossoit’s career opened with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Buffalo State University. It then continued with administrative positions at Syracuse University and Stony Brook University, both of New York. He further holds a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts Boston, achieved in 1999 as part of the school’s inaugural cohort.

It was at Stony Brook where Brossoit became nationally recognized for his work in combatting sexual assaults on campus. That included the creation of “A Step Beyond,” a peer-led group at Stony Brook aimed at educating the community about sexual assault and date rape. In 1991, he further served as a keynote at the first Sexual Assault Prevention conference in the region, hosted at Northeastern University, in which more than 350 professional staff and faculty attended.

Brossoit came to Salem State in July of 1990 to serve as director of residence life, a position he held until becoming assistant dean of students nine years later, in July of 1999.

“They hadn’t had a director of residence life in 10 years,” Brossoit said. “They were opening the Bates Complex the year I came in. There were no real systems in place, policies, and this was like, ‘I can go in and create them.’”

Matthew Chetnik, assistant dean of student success and first year experience, has worked closely with Brossoit throughout his time on campus.

“For more than 30 years, Dr. Brossoit has served as a champion for student success, helping build equitable programs on campus and inspiring students to make a difference,” Chetnik said. “His inclusive leadership has ensured that the voices which need to be at the table are heard, and that the institution holds itself to the highest degree of integrity with students always at the heart of what we do. Dr. Brossoit has served as a mentor for so many at Salem State, and his presence will be missed.”

Today, Brossoit is an assistant vice president overseeing the university’s Center for Academic Excellence, which provides many services for students from its location in the Berry Library. That includes academic advising, tutoring, military veteran support, and much more. Going further, Brossoit has also served several other posts for the university, from being its first assistant dean of students to co-chairing the body that built a comprehensive enrollment management plan for Salem State.

“Nobody goes to college thinking about a career in student affairs. It’s really a byproduct of your experiences,” Brossoit said. “My work has always been about trying to understand not from a student deficit model, but more from an institutional model: what do you need to change if you aren’t meeting students’ needs?

“We have a moral obligation if we bring students in,” Brossoit concluded. “We need to develop programs that get them to the finish line.”

Dustin Luca
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