When former Calhoun College Dean Leslie Woodard died last semester, she was celebrated as a writer, dancer and educator — and also as a pioneer of Yale’s milestone summer bridge program for low-income and first-generation freshmen.
Since Woodard’s death, Yale College Dean Mary Miller has appointed Ezra Stiles College Dean Camille Lizarribar as the new dean of the Freshman Scholars at Yale (FSY) Program. FSY, which began as a pilot program last summer, invites approximately 30 incoming students to campus over the summer for five weeks of instruction, including a course of English 114 as well as structured science and math tutoring. Despite the change in leadership, Miller said no changes are in the works for the program this summer, with the exception of the development of online precalculus modules under the direction of mathematics professor Jim Rolf.
“We would like to have the program be as consistent as it can be with the program of last summer,” Miller said.
Lizarribar was appointed the dean of Ezra Stiles in 2010, before which she served as an adjunct professor in the Directed Studies program and as a research associate at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Though she could not be reached for comment Wednesday, colleagues and students described her as a great fit for the role of FSY dean.
Pointing to Lizarribar’s educational trajectory — which moved from an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University to a doctorate in comparative literature and a law degree, both from Harvard University — Miller said Lizarribar envisions a broad array of opportunities for students.
Students in Ezra Stiles unanimously praised Lizarribar’s accessibility as a dean, noting that they feel her door is always open for problems large and small.
“Between her aqua blue office, ready-draw tissues and adorable new puppy, she’s someone you can always go to,” Grace Hirshorn ’15 said.
Phil Wilkinson ’17 said Lizarribar, a single mother to two young sons, treats every student in Ezra Stiles as her own child. The dean demonstrates her warmth with small gestures such as a willingness to let students into her apartment, he said.
According to Sophie Janaskie ’15, Lizarribar’s approachability as the Ezra Stiles dean makes her extremely qualified to lead FSY.
Wilkinson said Lizarribar is especially fit for the deanship of FSY because she is sensitive to Yale’s place in the world and to the socioeconomic context in which the University is situated.
“I remember, on the first night of freshman orientation, one of the things she encouraged us to do was to go out and interact with people in New Haven, be it a waiter in a restaurant or one of the workers on the street,” he said. “In that sense, she is very aware of life outside Yale and wants us to be as well.”
The words students used to describe Lizarribar — fun, accessible, caring — are the ones that students also attributed to Woodard.
Kerry Burke-McCloud ’17, who participated in FSY last summer, said Woodard served as both a “maternal figure as well as a best friend” during the program. Of all the adults in the program, he said, Woodard was the one he felt closest to.
“We would have these things called ‘Dean Time,’ where she’d talk with us about anything that’s on her mind or anything that’s on our mind,” Burke-McCloud remembered.
Maxine Dillon ’17, who participated in the inaugural Freshman Scholars Program, said that if she had not done FSY, she would have been reluctant to admit she needed help transitioning to Yale. The most effective part of the program, she said, was the sense of comfort and belonging it instilled in its participants.
In addition to her administrative roles, Lizarribar has also worked as a private attorney and translator.