Dr. David Fink to retire in May


Dr. David Fink, professor of counseling and psychology at JSC, will be retiring at the end of the semester after 28 years of teaching core courses in JSC’s master’s degree program in addition to being the program’s coordinator since 2003.

Fink’s work since joining JSC’s Behavioral Sciences Department in 1989 has involved supervising his counseling students’ fieldwork through their internships, while also working closely with the undergraduate psychology program.

After a long tenure with the college, Fink says he has greatly benefitted from the close-knit environment JSC has provided him with for his work.

“This has been a perfect fit for me professionally in terms of being able to be involved not only with our master’s program, but also in our Behavioral Sciences Department,” said Fink. “All of us get along really well. The colleagues that I’ve known over the years have been a tremendous benefit to me and the college’s general climate of, as you well know, friendliness and interpersonal closeness, caring, commitment—all of that has been a benefit.

“The staff support we have, particularly Cathy Higley, the administrative assistant for graduate programs, should be mentioned prominently in any interview of our program,” he added. “She’s just fantastic. We call her the ‘graduate goddess.’ She just works so well with our students. Saying all of that, the number one benefit I would say is the students that we’ve had. I just feel overwhelmed with respect and affection for the—probably 600 students—that I’ve known over the years.”

Fink, who has earned degrees from Wesleyan University, Harvard University and the University of Maine, insists his decision to retire was not a planned event, but holds optimism for the future.

“As we all know, life gives us challenges that we don’t have the control over that we wish we did,” said Fink. “In my case, it’s family obligations that I need to be attending to and I’m just glad that I can be involved with those.”

Though most of his time will be spent with family, Fink expects to stay current with the academic affairs at JSC.

One of Fink’s longtime colleagues, Dr. Gina Mireault, professor of psychology at JSC, lauds Fink’s work with the counseling program and for having genuine interest in his students.

“David was here from the inception of the Counseling program, so has really influenced it in countless ways,” said Mireault. “He is a strong advocate for the M.A. students and the program, and he takes personal interest in the professional growth and development of each student—he knows each one as an individual and has helped each of them navigate their own professional and educational path regardless of their various starting points.

“He’s dedicated beyond the ordinary. David puts in long hours and looks after each student with care and personal attention. This kind of dedication is largely responsible for the growth of the program, which is the largest counseling program in the state of Vermont.”

Katie Place, a master’s student in Fink’s counseling program, reveres her professor as an inspiration in her studies and in life.

“I suspect he will continue to show the same amount of support up until I graduate in May, and probably even after,” said Place. “I came to Johnson afraid I would not be accepted into the Masters of Counseling program because of my inherent lack of relevant experience. I was unsure that I had the skills to be an effective counselor. Not only has Dr. Fink put my fears to rest, but he has given me the confidence to pursue my dream of becoming a school counselor.

“I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced his kind, but firm nature and has been reassured about the path we were on. From his lectures on the human psyche to his unique project assignments, to his adventurous spirit on our class trip to Ireland, Dr. Fink is truly one of a kind.”

Denisha Arsenault, who is studying clinical mental health counseling, says Fink quelled any fears she had when interviewing for a spot in the program.

“He makes everything a lot — I don’t want to say easier — but he takes the anxiety [away] from things,” said Arsenault. “I felt really normal;.When first coming here, I thought I would be underqualified because I was so young compared to everyone else, but I didn’t feel that way in any of his classes.

Additionally, school counseling student Cory Scoppe says she has noticed the impact Fink has had on many of his students around Vermont.

“I just think of all the people, as I go out and complete my internship that I’m working with mental health agencies and people in private practice,” said Scoppe. “How many people went to this program at Johnson State and got their master’s here, how many people are like, ‘Oh my, have you had Fink?’ [It’s] amazing how they talk about him and their experiences with him.”

When she first heard of Fink’s retirement, Scoppe said she was surprised and couldn’t imagine JSC’s counseling program without him.

When Fink arrived at JSC, he says the master’s program for counseling was in its infancy relative to where it currently stands.

To keep the program viable, Fink acknowledges that the ability to evolve has been key to its survival.
“Over the years, I, not just me alone, but with my colleagues in counselor education, have really worked very hard to make sure that our program has evolved in a way that makes it as easy as possible for our graduates to become licensed in the state of Vermont,” he said. “That’s sometimes been a complicated issue because in Vermont there are three separate licensing processes for counselors: clinical mental health, school counseling and addictions counseling.

“Each of those credentials has a separate board and a separate set of responsibilities. My goal and my colleagues’ goal has always been to stay current on what the state of Vermont expects a master’s program to do and to make sure that our curriculum is in lockstep with that, and also to have faculty who are skilled to run the program.”

After nearly 30 years of work at JSC, Fink says the class he’ll miss teaching most will be counseling theories.

“For better or worse, no one else has ever taught that course except me in the last nearly thirty years,” he said. “It’s a big favorite of mine and it’s where we try to set the whole climate of what our program is about. I look at that as kind of a gatekeeping course to welcome new students in the program.”

According to Mireault, Fink’s retirement caused initial concern for the Behavioral Sciences Department; however, she notes that the longtime professor will be involved with the new hires in their transition to JSC.

“He’s not someone who can ever be replaced, in part because of his service to the program and in part because of his longevity within it,” Mireault said. “However, we’ve been so fortunate to have just hired two seasoned faculty members to oversee the program, including developing a much-needed certification in substance abuse. David will consult closely with them to assist in a seamless transition and make sure the students and program continue to receive the attention and care that has become David’s [Fink] signature and stamp.”

Relief is the word Fink is using to describe his feeling regarding the two individuals who will be taking over his role at JSC.

He says both sides are mutual in their happiness and excitement with their choices.

“The two people who have been hired, I’ve had a lot of chance for interaction with them now,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier about what they’re going to be bringing to the program. They are thrilled to be coming to Vermont — it’s a good change for them from where they are coming.

“Dr. Kim Donovan is going to be taking the director position and her husband, Dr. Dan Weigel, is going to be doing full-time teaching in the program,” he added. “Both of them have loads of experience as clinicians and in the kinds of classes that our program needs . . . I feel really great that quality people are taking over.”

With the search for his successors ending with the hiring of Donovan and Weigel, who are both coming from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Fink says he is set to turn his focus on his family and hopes to travel more.

However, he reiterates that his colleagues and students at JSC have been of paramount importance to his work over the years.

“It was important to me to make sure to mention Cathy Higley because she is a dear, dear person and so important to student success,” said Fink. “Aside from that, I’ll just amplify again that it’s just been a blessing to me to be doing this for almost forty years in total in terms of my clinical practice and then I taught for a while at the University of Maine before coming [to JSC]. I have no regrets. It’s been a good gig.”