From one garden to another: Communication professor to retire after 34 years at Cabrini

By Cecelia Heckman
December 1, 2016


Video compiled by Emily Rowan and Devon Johnson


Cathy Yungmann will retire from Cabrini after 34 years of teaching. Photo by Hollie Havens, via Cathy Yungmann

At the end of the Fall 2016 semester, the Cabrini University communication department will be taking a big hit as associate professor Cathy Yungmann has announced her retirement from the program.

Yungmann, who has taught at Cabrini for 34 years, has been recognized for her efforts nationally over her tenure at the college-turned-university. Among her top achievements at Cabrini, Yungmann has received both the Lindback Award for Teaching and the Rose and Ray Green Faculty Scholars Award, as well as the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications Teaching with Technology award, which is her favorite of them all. 

Yungmann and her fellow communication department faculty have always been a close group. Cecelia Heckman / Editor-in-Chief


“I’ll miss the students the most and my fellow faculty members who, after decades and decades you get really really close to the people that you work with you have to like the people that you work with or you wouldn’t stay for decades,” Yungmann, whose retirement will go into effect on Jan. 2, 2017, said. “It’s very exciting and very intellectually stimulating to deal with students all the time. [The students] are great, [they] are always challenging us and pushing us and that’s what I’ll miss.”

Throughout her time at Cabrini, Yungmann would always sneak pictures of her students to be funny memories later. Photo by Cathy Yungmann

It is known throughout the department that Yungmann loved her students more than they could even realize. “Cathy Yungmann was my professor first. I had her when I was a student here in 2005 to 2009, and then she became like a mentor after I graduated and now she’s a colleague, so we have hit all realms of friendship,” Jillian Smith, manager of student media operations at Cabrini, said.

Yungmann spent 10 years in the professional broadcasting industry before she came to Cabrini. She left the field that she loved when her first child was born. “You couldn’t work 24 hours a day, seven days a week like broadcasting required and be a mom,” Yungmann said.

As they say though, when one door closes, another one opens.

And that is what happened.

After she quit her broadcasting job, her old production manager got a call from none other than Dr. Jerry Zurek, Cabrini’s current chair of communication, who asked him if he knew anyone who would want to teach since there was a position open.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

“I think not too many people understand how highly respected she is nationally with regard to these major senior projects she has done for over 10 years,” Zurek said. “When she goes to national conventions, people seek her out for advice about how they could do that, so she has always taken the lead with regard to multimedia storytelling.”

Cabrini’s senior honors convergence classes have been nationally recognized multiple times since Yungmann began teaching the course in 2004. Honors senior convergence is a year-long course where the seniors create and develop their own website based on a major social justice issue under the guidance of Yungmann.

This graduated convergence class’s project on “Serving Food Solutions” has since won a Silver Daley for their work. Photo via Cathy Yungmann

Three of the most accomplished projects through this class were “The Arab Awakening,” in which Cabrini students partnered with graduate students at the American University in Cairo to report on the real-time development and causes of the revolution in Egypt, “Serving Food Solutions,” which won the Silver Davey Award in the category of Social Responsibility Media from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, and “The Children as Witness Project,” which was a key component in the launch of Cabrini’s national work on domestic violence.

“The Children as Witness Project” was the biggest of them all, according to Zurek.

“This has been shown at the White House to the domestic violence coordinator for the president. So this website helps train teachers, school teachers around the country how to spot kids who have been affected by domestic violence,” Zurek said. “So that’s how significant it’s being used all over the country. Just the incredible reporting that our students do to bring these issues to fruition.”

While Yungmann will be calling it a career with her video production and LOQation news classes, among others, the school does hope to keep her on in some capacity to work with honors convergence.  “I want her to keep doing this as long as she would like to,” Zurek said. “She is just such an incredible asset to the department and the college.”

As well as becoming really close with many of her students over her 34-year tenure at Cabrini, Yungmann has made a lot of lifelong memories with other faculty members over the years.

“We’ve traveled together many times,” Zurek said about he and his ”work wife” as he likes to call her. “We went to Kenya for two weeks to a conference about technology in developing countries. I remember, I can picture her trying to feed giraffes and how scared she was to feed the giraffes. I also remember an elephant picking up mud and throwing it at me and she wiped the mud off my face! So those were kind of unusual,” he said with a laugh. Zurek also mentioned how he will miss hearing Yungmann’s iconic laugh everyday.

Zurek and his “work wife” Yungmann enjoyed two weeks in Kenya together for a conference. Photo via Jerry Zurek

“I’ve been at Cabrini 15 years and Cathy is one of the first faculty members that I met when I was here,” Dr. Mary Van Brunt, dean of the School of Business, Arts and Media, said. “I think we were actually at another faculty member’s Christmas party and she sat next to me at the piano and just started talking to me because she’s so welcoming and everything. And then we spent a lot of time traveling. We were part of the faculty mission academy together, so we had a lot of late night talks in New Orleans and different mission events that we went to overnight.”

“Annually we go on a trip up to New York City that the college sponsors,” Dr. Kathleen McKinley, professor of sociology and chair of the department of sociology and criminology, said. “[The] fine arts department has taken us to New York in a bus, and we have the day together. So when I think of Cathy we’re always sitting together on a bus. And last time she just made fun of me because I brought my blue books along with me and she said, ‘Are you kidding? You’ll never get them done.’ And I know because we’re chatting the whole time.”

“All the big issues of the world have been brought to Cabrini through her wonderful work and she gets you guys involved and gets you doing it and gives you the skills to help bring it to other people, which what can be better than that? We love her. I love her,” McKinley said.

When asked what the plan for the communication department will be going forward, Zurek quoted his student-turned-colleague Smith, “As Jill said, whenever anybody asks me a question, my first response is let me talk to Cathy about it first. We’ve worked together since like 1983 so 33 or 34 years now, so now I’ll think of something and she will text me with the same thought that was just in my head or vise versa. Or I’ll be talking and I’ll start a sentence and she will finish my sentence, so it’s just like we are too old. I think it’s interesting in that in those 34 years that we have never really fundamentally disagreed. We have never fought, we have pretty much seen eye to eye in communication, in social justice, in how Cabrini University should be run,” Zurek said.

When asked about what she will be doing during her retirement, Yungmann noted that she would be baking cookies and volunteering in her community, which she already does as well. She is very active in the election process in her community of Haverford Township. Yungmann is the president of the League of Women Voters for her township. She runs the debates there for each election. This past election was her 94th, and she even wrote an article about it.

One other thing that she will be doing is a whole lot of gardening.

The front of Yungmann’s house is covered with flowers she gardens herself. Photo by Cathy Yungmann
Yungmann’s love for gardening will be one of her focuses once her retirement begins. Photo by Cathy Yungmann
Yungmann’s fall garden shows a variety of flowers and vegetables. Photo by Cathy Yungmann

“She’s not that far away, I know how to get to her house, and in the spring we will definitely [be gardening],” McKinley said. “We exchange plants. So gardeners, if you know gardeners, we usually have excess in some area and then some spots in the garden need to be filled. So she gave me a lilac tree already that this year might actually produce lilacs, because it takes a little while to develop. I gave her a perennial geranium. So, we will keep doing that I think forever.”

“I’d like to do more gardening cause that’s like…I love gardening,” Yungmann said. “It’s like the best thing in the world to do. You get to watch stuff grow, it’s really nice. It’s kind of like students. You know, students grow and grow and mature and then they blossom, that’s like my garden. It grows and grows and matures and then beautiful flowers or vegetables. So I would like to do more gardening.”

Cecelia Heckman

Junior Editor-in-Chief/ Executive Content Manager of Loquitur. Digital Communications and Social Media major with a Business Administration minor. Student ambassador, Assistant Operations Manager of WYBF and show co-host, President of Alpha Lambda Delta, member of the Society for Collegiate Journalists and member of the Cabrini Honor's Program.

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