In a surprising announcement Monday afternoon, Alexandra Dufresne ’96, who has served as Morse College’s dean since fall 2005, said she will be stepping down from her position at the end of the spring 2007 semester.
In an e-mail sent to Morse students, Dufresne said she will be leaving Yale to accept a position with Connecticut Voices for Children, a non-profit advocacy organization in New Haven that aims to improve the quality of life for Connecticut children and families. While some Morse students said they are concerned about how the change will affect the quality of academic advising in the college, Morse administrators said they will work to ensure a smooth transition.
Dufresne said serving in Morse has enhanced her overall Yale experience.
“Living and working in Morse has been tremendously rewarding,” she said. “The Morse community embodies everything I love about Yale.”
Morse College Master Frank Keil said the search for Dufresne’s replacement will not be limited to the Yale community.
“We’re very sorry to see her go,” Keil said. “The search [for the next dean] will be open.”
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said Morse students will be involved in the selection process. Her announcement comes early enough in the school year to allow for a thorough search, he said. Salovey said he thinks Dufresne’s decision reflects her passion for legal work.
“[My] understanding is she just missed very much her legal work and wanted to get back to it,” he said.
Because Dufresne began as dean only one year ago, her replacement will be the third dean to supervise current Morse juniors. A number of sophomores and juniors said they worry that the change in deans will affect the quality of academic and career advising they will receive in their final years at Yale.
Danny Mindlin ’08 said the lack of a continuous dean-student relationship will detract from life at the college.
“It’s nice to have a dean that you know and you can build a relationship with,” he said. “It’s easier for the residential college when the dean knows the students and the students know the dean.”
But other Morse students said that as long as Dufresne’s replacement is competent, academic advising will not be affected.
Keil said administrators will focus on making the switch as smooth as possible by passing on information about students to the new dean.
Dufresne’s close proximity to Yale will also make the change easier for students, Morse Associate Master Kristi Lockhart said.
“Alexandra will be in the area, and I’m sure she’ll be more than willing to write recommendations for students who have known her,” she said.
A number of residential college deans said Dufresne was a valuable part of both Morse and Yale College.
Calhoun College Dean Stephen Lassonde said the loss is regrettable, but he is sure Dufresne will make a positive contribution to Connecticut Voices for Children.
“It is a loss, to be sure, but this is a job that has to be the right fit for the right person,” he said in an e-mail. “Obviously Dean Dufresne has many talents and will find other ways to make these same qualities help still more people.”
Many students said Dufresne was well-liked in the Morse community and that they were taken aback by her announcement.
“I was surprised by [the announcement],” Jason Blau ’08 said. “It makes me sad because she’s a great dean, and we’ll all miss her.”
Dufresne’s move to Connecticut Voices for Children represents a return to her roots in public policy advocacy. After receiving a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1999, Dufresne worked in the field of immigration rights.
Shelley Geballe LAW ’76 EPH ’95, President of Connecticut Voices for Children, said Dufresne’s experience will be a unique and valuable addition to the organization.
“She’s done a lot of work on immigration rights and other rights issues,” Geballe said. “Somebody with her talents … would be an addition to us because we don’t have anyone with her background.”
Dufresne replaced Rosemary Jones as dean of Morse in fall 2005. She is married to Eric Dufresne ’96, a mechanical engineering professor at Yale.