Alexandra Dufresne ’95 was named the new dean of Morse College at dinner Monday evening.
The new dean will replace Rosemary Jones, who announced her resignation this past October. Dufresne, who will begin as dean on July 1, will move with her husband, mechanical engineering professor Eric Dufresne ’96, into the Morse dean’s suite this summer.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey announced the appointment of Dufresne, a scholar of immigration and human rights law. Salovey, who made the appointment after consulting with Morse College Master Frank Keil and a committee of Morse students and fellows, praised Dufresne’s familiarity with the residential college system as well as the varied background that Dufresne, a human rights lawyer as well as a skilled violinist, will bring to her position.
“We were looking for someone with excellent judgment who understands the unique nature of Yale College and who might bring a kind of diversity of skills,” Salovey said. “We think she will really be excellent at the advising side … in helping the master build community and in helping students through good times and bad.”
Dufresne currently lives in Cambridge, Mass., and is a fellow at Boston College Law School, where she specializes in refugee and immigrant law. While an undergraduate at the University, Dufresne was a violinist in the Yale Symphony Orchestra and an editor of the Yale Journal of Human Rights. After graduation, she attended law school at the University of Chicago and then clerked with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Although she said she never imagined herself as dean of a college, Dufresne said her experience as a Yale undergraduate impressed upon her how important the residential colleges were to the sense of community she felt as a student. Dufresne met her husband when they were undergraduates living together in Saybrook College.
“My own life really did center around my residential college,” Dufresne said. “This is a huge honor for me to get to work at Yale.”
Although being dean will be Dufresne’s only position at Yale, she said she hopes to teach an undergraduate class on refugee and human rights issues. Besides that, she said she is looking forward to participating in college life.
“I hope to be very open and very available to [students],” she said. “This is a huge honor for me to get to work at Yale. Everyone has had wonderful things to say about Morse.”
Keil said Dufresne’s knowledge of residential college life and her interpersonal skills made her a particularly attractive candidate for the position of dean.
“She seemed to really connect with the students and seemed to have a lot of experience helping people through her law work,” he said. “We’re looking forward to continuing the tradition of a great college.”
Molly Lubin ’06, a member of the search committee, said Dufresne impressed the committee with her ability to appear as both a figure of authority and as a genuine friend to students.
“She seemed really enthusiastic about the position,” Lubin said. “She seemed like a very friendly person who would want to get to know students.”
Lubin said that although some other candidates had more experience, Dufresne had a better understanding of the role deans play in the colleges.
“She seemed to have a great instinct for knowing what to do,” she said.
Nirupam Sinha ’05, another member of the committee, said Jones, who has been dean at Morse since 1998, will leave a gap when she departs this summer. But Sinha said he was confident that Dufresne would easily fit into the Morse community.
“We certainly wish [Dufresne] the best — it’s always hard to follow in the footsteps of someone like that,” he said. “I’m extremely confident that they’re going to do a great job.”