Five Boston University Professors, Six Role Models

BU Experts
5 min readDec 22, 2023

Five faculty members from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences were asked the question, “Who is your role model and how have they inspired you?”

By Joela Goga

With 2023 coming to an end and the holiday season among us, it is easy to get lost in the excitement of gift-giving, traveling, and meeting any end of semester deadlines. But once the laptops are shut and the gifts are unwrapped, many find that the end of the year is also a time for reflection. Whether you’re jotting down your list of resolutions or scrolling through your photos and wondering where the time went, it is almost impossible to not think about that friend, mentor, or teacher— who in one way or another, played a role in the journey that led you to where you are today.

Faculty members from the Romance Studies, Economics, and Psychological & Brain Sciences Departments at Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences were all asked the question, “Who is your role model and how have they inspired you?” Their answers varied from family members, to famous writers, to presidents. These reflections serve as a kind reminder to us all as the year comes to a close, to take a moment and remember those figures in our own lives. Inspiration, motivation, support — they all go a long way, as these answers will tell you.

Alicia Borinsky, Professor of Spanish & Latin American Studies

Alicia Borinsky is a published author, poet, and literary critic who has won a multitude of awards including the Latino Literature Prize for Fiction. When asked about her role model, she spoke about her grandfather.

“My maternal grandfather lost his wife, his community and a child in the Second World War. He was a carver whose optimism was fueled by the love he felt for the newer generations. He trusted art and literature, broke often into song and told me since I can remember that the world was good, in need of me, and my destiny was to write. His presence in my heart continues to be an inspiration.”

Kevin Lang, Laurence A. Bloom Professor of Economics

Kevin Lang is an elected Fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, the author of Poverty and Discrimination, and the recipient of the Laurence A. Bloom Professorship in Economics. When asked about his role model, he gave two names.

“As an undergraduate at Oxford, I was fortunate to have two terrific young tutors before they became famous researchers. Tony, now Sir Anthony Heath, showed me that rational choice models can be applied to sociological questions, and helped me appreciate the value of sociology. Nick Stern, now Lord Stern of Brentford, finally convinced me that I could answer the same questions as an economist, but would benefit from more rigorous mathematical and statistical training. In the end, I am clearly an economist who appreciates the discipline’s rigor. Still, my research remains heavily influenced by sociologists, and my book won a prize in sociology and social work. I have since had the enormous pleasure of serving on a research advisory committee with Sir Anthony.”

Laurence Kotlikoff, William Fairfield Warren Professor and Professor of Economics

Laurence Kotlikoff is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the Econometric Society, as well as a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on variety of issues including climate change, carbon taxation, banking, and healthcare reform. He quoted President John F. Kennedy as one of his many role models.

“My role model? There are so many. But President Kennedy is at the top. As an academic, here’s my favorite Kennedy quote: ‘A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.’ Ideas that live on or are built on are what scholars seek beyond all else.”

Catalina Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Spanish

Catalina Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Spanish who specializes in Latin American Literature and Culture. Her research interests include women’s literature, ecofeminism, and queer literature. She is currently working on her first book: Writing like a Woman: Gendered Pseudonyms and the Impersonation of Female Voices, and has had articles published by Latin American Literary Review, among others. She shared how Argentine writer, Sylvia Molloy has inspired her work.

“My role model is the Argentinian academic, essayist and writer Sylvia Molloy (1938–2022). Molloy was the first woman to receive tenure at Princeton University in 1974. Molloy’s contributions to the field of Latin American Studies were fundamental, her approach to the field opened important avenues for scholars to engage literary and cultural production from the lenses of gender and sexuality studies. Further, Molloy was a very generous scholar that gave rise to a new generation of academics that are currently pushing the boundaries of the field.”

Amelia Stanton, Assistant Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences

Amelia Stanton is an Assistant Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences who completed a T32 fellowship in global psychology before joining Boston University. Her research focuses on sexual and reproductive health, mental health, substance use, and the intersections between these areas of study. Her role model? A fellow psychologist named Dr. Christina Psaros.

“I have several role models for different domains of life. Dr. Christina Psaros, an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and a clinical psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, is one of my models. When she first started working in research, she was told by supervisors that she really wasn’t cut out for the field. That feedback seemingly inspired her to prove her research prowess to those who doubted her. In her work, which strives address the psychosocial needs of women in South Africa who are living with or at risk for acquiring HIV, she is a model of persistence; if at first you don’t get the grant, keep trying, bring in new expertise, adapt the frameworks, and talk about the process along the way. We often do not offer details on the challenges that we face, choosing to highlight our successes rather than our failures (or, let’s call them “works in progress”). She remains openly persistent — an approach that consistently yields more research projects, often concurrently, which she leads with humility and grace — all while raising three young kids and two massive dogs. Perhaps it’s impossible to reach her level, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t try.”

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