Jessie Hill, dean of Silliman College, and Alexander Rosas, associate director of graduate programs at Yale Law School, will serve as the inaugural deans for Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges, respectively, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway announced Friday.
Holloway presented the new deans to Yale students in the Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona auditorium at noon on Dec. 9. Shortly afterwards, a formal announcement was sent to the Yale community introducing Hill and Rosas.
After a decade of planning and construction, the new colleges are due to open in fall 2017. Hill and Rosas will take up their full-time duties on July 1, 2017 and will work alongside professors Charles Bailyn ’81 and Tina Lu, who were named the heads of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges last July.
In his Friday announcement, Holloway called the four administrators “superbly equipped” to open the colleges next year.
Two search committees were charged with selecting the new deans. Each was composed of members across the Yale College community and chaired by its respective head of college.
Hill, who has served as the dean of Silliman College since 2014, previously held the positions of associate director and director of on-campus interviewing in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. She completed her undergraduate degree in European History, graduating cum laude from Barnard College, and earned a Masters of Science degree from the Graduate School of Journalism of Columbia University. Most recently, Hill has served as the secretary for the Two New Colleges Steering Committee, a group of faculty, undergraduates and administrators who have been planning the logistics for Murray and Franklin colleges. She will be joined by her two daughters, Lily and Ada.
“There’s a lot riding on making Franklin and Murray feel like residential college communities, integrating with the current twelve while retaining some pioneer spirit,” Hill told the News. “My job as dean is to listen and support and together with [Bailyn] keep the ship on course to graduating our first class of seniors.”
In an email to the News, Bailyn said that Hill is an “experienced and successful dean,” adding that she both “knows the current procedures well” and is “excited by the prospect of doing some new things.”
In addition to his position at the Law School, Rosas is a fellow and freshman adviser in Branford College and Lecturer in the Department of Political Science. Previously, Rosas held various positions, including University pre-law advisor at Western New England University, where he was particularly involved in diversity-related issues and served on two University-wide committees on diversity and inclusion. Rosas holds a Ph.D. in Jurisprudence and Social Policy and a J.D., Order of the Coif, from the University of California, Berkeley. He completed his undergraduate degree in International Relations, with Honors and Distinction, from Stanford. He will be joined by his wife Sarala — a federal prosecutor and Deputy Chief of the National Security and Major Crimes Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office in New Haven — and their two dogs, Marbury and Madison.
Rosas said he is “honored” to have been appointed dean. He added that for him, the naming of the College after Pauli Murray is especially meaningful given his longstanding commitment to diversity and his “belief in the power of law to do good.”
“Alexander is wonderfully measured and thoughtful,” Lu said regarding Rosas’ appointment. “He is the kind of person you could not throw off from giving a steady, correct and wise response.”
According to Bailyn, the new dean search committees have been at work since late October. Although the committees for the two colleges were distinct, they were working with the same set of over forty applicants. After conducting skype interviews, followed by some in-person interviews of leading candidates, the committees made recommendations to Holloway, who then made the final decision.
Holloway referred to the search process as “standard but with a wrinkle.” In normal cases, search committees are composed of college fellows, administrators and students. For the new college dean searches, however, the Yale College Dean’s Office sent out a request to the Yale College Council to select undergraduate members for the committees and leaned on fellows and administrators who previously participated in other searches.
As Hill prepares to assume her new position next year, the search for a new dean for Silliman College is due to begin shortly, Holloway explained in his announcement.
“Leaving Silliman is hard to think about. I’m still absorbing it, really,” Hill said. “I’ve seen the college weather difficult times and I feel a deep connection to the place and the people and always will. I view this as a move toward a new venture rather than a move away from something.”
In a Friday email to students in Silliman college, Hill explained her new position, stating that she would not leave Silliman unless she thought it was in “truly good shape.”
Silliman student David Glaess ’20 told the News that while he is sad to see Hill leave, he is happy that the new colleges will benefit from the “fantastic leadership and kindness that [students] were able to experience first-hand while [Hill] was a part of the Silliman community.”
The announcement of the new deans comes a few hours before the first deadline — Friday, December 9 at 5 p.m. — for applying to transfer to the new colleges.
Correction, Dec. 14: An earlier version of this story referenced Jessie Hill’s cat Bloom. The Hill family no longer has a cat.