On Monday, seven weeks after the sudden death of former Calhoun College Dean Leslie Woodard, April Ruiz ’05 was announced as the residential college’s new dean.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Calhoun Master Jonathan Holloway introduced Ruiz to Calhoun students and other members of the Yale community on Monday night in the Calhoun dining hall. Miller said that Ruiz’s connection to students stems from her own undergraduate experience that ended less than a decade ago and from her current position as assistant director for Yale College fellowships at the Center for International and Professional Experience (CIPE).
In the crowded Calhoun dining hall, Ruiz emphasized her excitement about assuming this new role and meeting the students. Holloway said Ruiz will begin by shadowing other administrators in the Dean’s Office and that she will take time to get to know staff, students and the building.
“I am looking forward to helping you navigate your years here at Yale, from move-in day to graduation day — all the ups and downs,” Ruiz said.
While at Yale, Ruiz — who was in Morse College — majored in cognitive science and was mentored by Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos. After graduation, Ruiz went on to study the social interactions of lemurs at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, from which she graduated with a Ph.D. in psychology in 2009. She returned to Yale as a postdoctoral associate of the Department of Psychology before working for the CIPE.
Students at the Monday night meeting responded positively to Ruiz’s appointment. Clara Yang ’17 and Liza Rodler ’17, both students in Calhoun, said they were impressed by Ruiz’s enthusiasm and are optimistic about having her as their new dean.
Nathalie Levine ’14, a Calhoun student and former copy editor for the News, was previously advised by Ruiz for a fellowship that she applied for and eventually won. She said that her interactions with Ruiz were generally pleasant, and that she expects that Ruiz’s experiences at CIPE will carry over to her deanship.
Both Miller and Ruiz paid respects to Woodard in their remarks in the dining hall. Miller said that the challenging and difficult period that started with Woodard’s death is now coming to an end as the college enters into a time of hope and new beginning. Ruiz called Woodard a commendable colleague that she hopes to emulate in her new position.
“Calhoun would not be where it is today without [Woodard’s] devotion to all of you and her devotion to this day,” Ruiz said. “I want to love this college as fully as she did.”
Holloway announced the meeting in an email to Calhoun on Monday. Although he did not mention a specific reason for the meeting, most students said they assumed it had to do with the vacant dean’s position. Yang said that despite being initially mystified by the message, she and many of her friends eventually figured out what the meeting would revolve around.
It was uplifting to see so many Calhoun students together in one room, Rodler said, adding that it seemed like the community came together as a family.
Holloway said Ruiz is expected to fully transition into her new position over the course of the next month. In January 2014, at the start of the spring semester, she will move into the college with her dog Benjamin and fiancé Neil Catapano, who is currently a student at Quinnipiac University obtaining his second degree.
Holloway offered his support to Ruiz, while also emphasizing students’ roles in helping her assimilate.
“My job is to help her in the ways that I can, but you guys should lead the way,” he said to the students. “Help train her as your dean.”
Ruiz will formally begin her new duties and take on the title of the deanship on Dec. 9. Earlier this year, Holloway announced that he would leave his post as Master of Calhoun College at the end of the 2013-’14 academic year.